MILLEDGEVILLE — The former Shaw building on the corner of West Andrews and South Wayne streets recently became a focal point for copper theft.
Maj. Reginald Hill of the Milledgeville Police Department said it started months ago.
“I’d say it’s strictly for profit because it’s such a large quantity of copper wiring in that building that’s very valuable,” Hill said.
Authorities discovered the problem when a city employee attempted to turn on the power for building guests.
“They went to turn the power back on, and there was none,” Hill said. “After looking through the place, you could see where someone or some people have been going in and taking the copper wiring out of most of the power boxes. With the amount of damage there, it’s something that’s been going on for quite some time.”
MPD is “running with the investigation” and has several leads discovered inside the Shaw facility.
Hill said due to the large copper wire quantity stolen, investigators believe parties involved did sell the material.
“One of the main things that could crack this case open is if we could find out where they’ve actually taken this wire to sell it,” Hill said.
The police estimate the copper’s worth at several thousand dollars.
Stripped copper could run $3 per pound, according to Adam Pabian, owner of Ace Recycling on South Jefferson Street.
He estimated a foot of the metal to weigh two or three pounds.
“You’re talking about several dollars a foot,” Pabian said.
Laws require pawnshops and recycling centers to report people coming in with large amounts of these materials, according to MPD.
Business owners load identification and transaction information into an accessible database.
“We have to get everybody’s IDs, a picture of what comes in and they have to sign that they sold it,” Pabian said. “Normally if something starts coming in that looks really suspicious, I’d call.”
Police work to narrow down one or multiple suspects that could pull off a massive copper take. Pabian estimated the potential building damage to be “a fortune.”
MPD suspects the rampant theft is a professional job.
“This is not an operation that any local can do because of the fact that it has to be someone who knows a lot about electricity because you can actually lose your life stealing that copper wire if you don’t know what you are doing,” Hill said. “I’d go as far as saying that it may be a former employee.”
In the meantime, MPD officers have stepped up Shaw area patrols and added a weekly walk-through.
The vacant Shaw building is tabbed to roar back as the Milledgeville-Baldwin County Communiversity.
Pending city signatures, Solar Zones, LLC. plans to lease-purchase the 93,000 square foot building by way of the Milledgeville-Baldwin County Development Authority for $450,000.
The local Communiversity stated mission is foster entrepreneurship, enhance workforce training and community wide economic development.
Committed parties include Solar Zones, the Milledgeville Players, the Central State Hospital Local Redevelopment Authority, Central Georgia Technical College, the Baldwin Investment group and Perpetual Motion, LLC.