South Carolina's new copper theft law went into effect today. It comes on the heels of a rise in copper thefts in our state.
The law includes all non-ferrous metals which simply means metals not containing significant quantities of iron or steel or non-magnetic.
At Waccamaw Metal Recycling in Myrtle Beach scrap metal is big business. They accept everything from copper to aluminum.
Joseph Owens was laid off earlier this year so he's turned to selling scrap metal.
"I go to different contractors like where they're renovating malls and stuff and i ask permission before i go anywhere and nine times out of ten if you ask, they'll give you permission," explains Owens. "I make a good living. I make 150 to 200 dollars a day doing this. It's hard work but I do it."
Copper accounts for about ten percent of the business here.
"It's a valuable commodity, it's worth almost three dollars per pound and given today's economy a lot of people are unemployed. A lot of people have been out of work. It creates an environment that helps our business but unfortunately it causes problems," says Jeffrey Rogers, owner of Waccamaw Metal Recycling.
That problem is theft of metals can earn someone a sizable amount of money. Rogers says the problems began recently, "In the past six years it's become a problem because of the world economy and these other countries that are industrializing. And building houses and building roads, building cars now are large consumers of our metals and they have driven up the price of commodities that we deal in."
The new law requiring a permit will help law enforcement keep track of who's selling metal, how often, and where. Cpl. Steve Causey with the Horry County Sheriff's Office says so far they've issued 175 permits.
Rogers says it's a small inconvenience but worth it to prevent crime,"It may take some time to see what the end results will be but I think long term I think it will be a good law."
"I think it's a good law because I really don't mess with copper but you got people stealing from your houses, stealing catalytic converters off cars," adds Owens.
Business slowed down today but Rogers expects it to pick back up again, "I think it'll take some time for the customers to go to Conway, get their permits and I think in due time everybody will come back business will be normal after several weeks or so, at least I hope so."
There are two kinds of permits; a one year, and a 48 hour permit for people who plan to sell the metals no more than twice a year. You have to show an ID to get a permit, but they are free.
You can get one from your county sheriff's office.
Also, cash will no longer be exchanged, dealers must pay sellers by check.
The new law does not apply to someone with a retail business license, wholesaler, or air conditioning service provider.