Copper thieves close Candler Road businesses
Jessica Smith | 8/30/2013, 8 a.m.
DECATUR A rash of commercial break-ins in the Candler-McAfee area in Decatur is hitting some business owners where it hurts.
In an eight-day period between Aug. 13 and Aug. 21, shop fronts in the 1900, 2000 and 2100 blocks of Candler Road were victims of six burglaries.
Wendell White, owner of the $5 Barber Salon and Spa at 2076 Candler Road, said the businesses along the busy corridor are being terrorized by thieves.
His store was hit on Aug. 16, and the theft closed him down for four days because the building had no electricity.
“I wasn’t able to work on Saturday and Saturday’s a good day,” he said. “The stylists weren’t able to work for four days. We lost a lot of income.”
DeKalb Police’s online crime report database – CrimeMapping.com – shows that the crime spree included three burglaries, forced entry to a nonresidence and one criminal trespass on Aug. 13; one larceny on Aug. 16; and one damage to property on Aug. 21.
But thieves weren’t after cash or merchandise.
They left White’s store and each of the other businesses targeted in the crime spree with scrap metal.
White said the thieves cut the electrical lines from the street pole and took all the copper from all of the electrical boxes.
“And they took the pole that runs the lines to the building,” he said. “They took all that out.”
On Aug. 19, Anita Brooks showed up for work at neighboring Auto Town Insurance and discovered a similar crime after turning on the store’s HVAC.
“It wasn’t getting cool so I was like let me turn it down some more,” said Brooks, who has been an agent at the 2070 Candler Road office for two years. “So I said, ‘Wow. The thermostat said 60 and I’m burning up.’ So I went out back and the whole unit was missing.”
Brooks and White are just two victims of what is becoming an increasingly common crime.
A May 1 report by the National Insurance Crime Bureau says that metal theft, particularly copper, is becoming more prevalent than ever in communities across the nation.
Stolen copper is valuable because the metal is used in many items – from plumbing to fiber optics to anything electrical – and, at about $3 a pound, the profits are tempting.
From 2009 to 2012, a staggering 25,083 insurance claims were filed compared with 13,861 from 2006 to 2008. Nearly 96 percent of the claims in the more recent period were for copper theft.
Georgia is ranked third of all states generating 1,953 metal theft claims for that period.
Mary Graves, a commercial landlord who owns several properties on Candler Road, said the crimes are a serious problem in the area.
“Nobody seems to know that this is going on, but a lot more of us have been broken into,” she said.
Graves, 68, has owned businesses on Candler Road since 1986. Three of her properties – a vacant building; a neighborhood restaurant, GutBusters; and a fish market, Merkerson’s Seafood – were broken into on Aug. 16 and 18, respectively.