April 14, 2014
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, and representatives from the Louisiana Attorney General's Office met today for a roundtable discussion on the growing concern of copper theft.
Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Butch Calhoun and other representatives of the region's agriculture and law enforcement communities also attended the Memphis meeting.
"Thieves who strip copper from irrigation systems are causing devastating property damage that can be crippling to our farmers," McDaniel said. "It is critical that the states in our region strategize collaboratively to prevent this crime."
Intergovernmental cooperation is important, McDaniel explained, because thieves often cross county and state lines to sell stolen metal.
"I'm fortunate to already have strong working relationships with the attorneys general in Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana," McDaniel said. "I think today's meeting was very constructive and will surely lead to progress in apprehending copper thieves."
Arkansas has had enormous success tracking scrap metal thieves using a statewide electronic reporting system created by LeadsOnline called the Metal Theft Investigations System. The system allows law enforcement and metal recyclers to share information and track suspicious scrap metal sales.
"LeadsOnline allows investigators to access information about thousands of transactions in a matter of minutes," McDaniel said. "The Metal Theft Investigations System is an incredible tool for law enforcement."
Arkansas investigators ran 9,728 scrap metal searches using the system during the first quarter of 2014 alone. The state has over 350 law enforcement agencies using the system and 127 scrap metal recyclers reporting their transactions.
Mississippi also uses the LeadsOnline system.
"Copper thieves are stripping irrigation systems and buildings costing farmers and building owners tens of thousands," Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said. "Due to high metal prices, metal of any kind, from cars on the side of the road to implements in the field, is being stolen at an alarming rate. I appreciate my colleagues in Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee joining me to discuss the issue and formulate workable law enforcement initiatives and create contacts among law enforcement agencies and farmers in our four states."
Tennessee is also grappling with copper theft.
"In Tennessee, scrap metal dealers register with and are regulated by the Department of Commerce and Insurance," said Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper. "We continue to be concerned about the theft and sale of scrap metal and are happy to share information and ideas with authorities in neighboring states to curb this nationwide problem."
Louisiana Attorney General James D. "Buddy" Caldwell echoed the other AGs' concerns.
"The theft of copper from refrigeration units, air conditioners, and irrigation systems has become an epidemic," Caldwell said. "And it could get worse as metal prices go higher. We four AGs in Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana are joining forces to crack down on the ease with which copper thieves operate. I've never seen cooperation across state lines this good, which means citizens in our region will see better protection."