MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) - Metal theft topped Monday's discussion as city council and Police Chief Mike Burns addressed Macon's top crimes of 2011. There were nearly a thousand metal theft cases in the city last year.
Last week Macon forked out around $20-thousand to repair copper theft damage from recreation centers in Bibb County. Council members met with Police Chief Mike Burns Monday afternoon and they want answers to this growing problem in middle Georgia.
"To me that is tearing our city apart," said City Council President James Timley.
Timley debated with Police Chief Mike Burns about how to use the police force. Currently Macon Police utilizes two investigators solely for copper thefts and Timley says that's not getting it done. With each metal theft, Timley says the local economy suffers.
"We've got over 100 houses in one neighborhood boarded up because people go in and steal the copper out or steal the wiring and consequently they're not going to put them back because this continues to happen," said Timley.
Timley suggests adding officers to work metal cases and criticizes the number of officers that currently focus on DUI arrests, an issue Chief Burns says he's not budging on.
"I know what a DUI driver can do to people or do to themselves and it was trying to be compared to copper theft and I just think its apples to oranges," said Burns.
There were 245 copper thefts and 990 metal thefts in all last year. Even though there are only two designated investigators for copper thefts, Chief Burns says there are 16 others who can investigate stolen metal cases depending on the circumstances.
Burns tells us there are four businesses in Macon that purchase metal, and the department is working closely with these companies to crack down on criminals.
"We had some road checks last year we're going to do more of them this year. Like it was brought up, one business even let us put a couple of our investigators acting as employees to see who was bringing the scrap metal in to see if it was the same person over and over," said Burns.
Bills in both the State Senate and House are in the works and they will restrict metal selling and purchasing to licensed workers.
Chief Burns also spoke about their focus on reducing residential burglaries, which went up in 2011 by 6%. Burns says the burglary closure rate is very low, around 10%, because evidence for these crimes is hard to track down.