Sheriff's Office: Response to New Copper Laws 'Overwhelming'
Thousands of permits issued since mid-August
Investigators with Greenville County Sheriff's Office are asking those interested in obtaining copper permits to do so by scheduling appointments via telephone after the department received a staggering amount of requests.
The requests started rolling in after Aug. 17, when new laws took effect that govern transactions involving non-ferrous metals. The laws, which were passed by the General Assembly and authorized by Gov. Nikki Haley in June, requires permits to be obtained by individuals or businesses that want to buy copper.
Capt. Jim Burriss of GCSO's property crimes unit, which has been tasked with issuing the permits, said processing the requests has been taxing on his investigators.
"The sheriff's office's property crimes unit has 14 investigators, and that includes sergeants," Burriss said. "So we're relatively limited in manpower, when we're also investigating burglaries, auto and other thefts.
"The response to this thing has been pretty overwhelming. We've done more than 2,500 of these permits since the middle of August."
Processing each permit is no quick task, since it entails investigators checking the permit-seekers' car registrations and photo identification, as well as related paperwork.
"There's a form you have to fill out, you have to check the person's ID. By the time you fill it out, talk to the person, enter it into the system, it's taken us somewhere around 30 or 40 minutes per application," Burriss said.
That's a staggering amount, Burriss said, considering they processed more than 700 permits within a week of the new laws taking effect.
"We're getting better at it and streamlining the process. We think it will take less time to do in the future," Burriss said. "I believe the intent of the law was to make it easier for law enforcement to identify people selling non-ferrous metals, thereby making it harder for people to steal these metals from businesses and houses in order to sell them, with the ultimate goal of reducing the total number of thefts of these metals."
Under the new laws, a person wishing to purchase the metal would have to apply for a two-year permit at a mandated fee of $200. Another part of the permitting process would require a second one-year permit for individuals who transport or sell copper and other nonferrous metals. That permit will not carry any charge.
And while the participation in the new system has been high, it's still too early to tell if the laws will have the desired effect of reducing metal theft.
"It's still pretty early in the process. We've been doing this about a month. It's too early to see if it is going to have a real good effect. We think there will be some effect, but we probably won't know for several more months," Burriss said.
Those interested in obtaining permits are asked to call the Northern Command of the Greenville County Sheriff's Office at (864) 371-3600.
"We're asking them to be patient," Burriss said. "We're getting pretty busy up here."