Loophole in Georgia law cited in rise in truck battery thefts

Loophole in Georgia law cited in rise in truck battery thefts

August 26th, 2013 by Tyler Jett in Local Regional News

Georgia thieves have taken to stealing car and truck batteries lately, and some police blame what they say is a flawed state law for the problem.

In most cases, people who sell metal to a recycler in Georgia are required by the state to fill out some forms. This is supposed to stop people from selling stolen goods. But there are a couple of exceptions, a couple of sales not recorded: those for drinking cans, and those for automobile batteries.

As a result, police say, some people in Georgia are lifting car batteries, dragging them to recyclers and cashing in. Now the Georgia Recyclers Association has asked its members to track battery purchases.

"The Georgia Recyclers Association hereby recommends that all Georgia recyclers voluntarily begin treating batteries as a regulated metal, with the same payment and recordkeeping requirements as copper, brass, aluminum and other regulated metals," President Rick Caldwell wrote on the association's website.

The Regulated Metals Recycling Law became effective in July 2012 to crack down on thieves stripping metal and selling it. Even someone buying and selling metal out of his house must play by the rules.

This includes how you can get paid. You can accept checks, electronic transfers or vouchers. But you can't take cash.

And, according to the law, both the buyer and seller have to fill out paperwork for each transition. You have to report, among other facts, what you bought, when you bought it and how much it weighed.

The seller also must sign an affidavit saying he or she was the rightful owner of the metal. And the seller must pose for a picture and supply a copy of his or her ID.

The law does not apply to battery sales, though, and some around the state say this has caused an increase in theft.

Ken Tucker, who runs Cooks Scrap Metal Inc. in Summerville, said he hasn't seen the problem. Still, he saw the Georgia Recycling Association's message, and he understands why it could be an issue.

"Why [lawmakers] exempted batteries," he said, "I really ain't sure."

But people haven't been trying to sell him many batteries, he said. He's still more worried about buying stolen air conditioning units and copper.

Local law enforcement officials agree. There haven't been many battery thefts around here.

Fort Oglethorpe Police Chief Jeff Holcomb said he hasn't seen any such reports recently. Neither has LaFayette police Capt. Stacey Meeks or Chickamauga Police Chief Micheal Haney.

Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson has had a similar experience.

"I'm not aware of any increase in vehicle batteries being stolen," he said. "It will make its way here, probably."

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or at tjett@timesfreepress.com