Shift in Walton County Crime Trends
Officials say since July 1 introduction of new scrap metal laws, auto theft and entering auto crimes have replaced much of the previous scrap metal thefts in Walton County.
When the Georgia legislature clamped down on scrap metal dealers, it put a lot of scrap metal thieves out of the scrap metal business. But, according to officials with the Walton County Sheriff's Office, it hasn't managed to put them out of business entirely - it has just changed their modus operandi.
"We're not getting a whole lot of scrap metal thefts anymore, but we're now getting a lot of entering auto," Capt. Mike Pause told seniors at Friday's SALT TRIAD meeting. "It's like they just moved from one crime to another."
The trends are clear in the zone reports that are generated by the WCSO. Since the lead up to July 1 when scrap metal dealers had to register with the WCSO to receive a permit, a noticeable trend began to appear. Scrap metal thefts dropped - entering auto and auto thefts, however, began to spike. Prior to the new law, everything from a/c units at building sites, copper wire at home improvement stores to vases at cemeteries were stolen and turned into scrap metal dealers.
The new law, however, has put a stop to much of that since the thieves no longer have a market for their wares. Metal recycles now have to enter all transactions into a database that is monitored by the Georgia Bureau of Investigations. In addition, a photograph of the metal purchased as well as of the face of the seller has to be kept on file. But as this cut down on scrap metal thefts, those criminals were forced to find another source of revenue. In Walton County officials say that appears to be in from stealing out of cars or even stealing cars.
“We did manage to get a blazer back that was stolen from Boss Brothers recently, but it was taken with a trailer and we haven't yet recovered the trailer,” Pause said, going on to caution people to keep their valuables out of their vehicles and to keep their vehicles locked.
“People are leaving their wallets, laptops, even guns in unlocked cars, and these things are being stolen,” Pause said. “Just take your valuables out of your cars and have an alarm on the vehicles if you can. It usually will frighten them off.”
In last week’s zone burglary and theft reports, entering autos and auto theft again featured prominently. The following theft and burglary case were investigated by the WCSO for the period July 22 - 25.
- Entering Auto – A vehicle on Jersey Walnut Grove Rd. was entered and items were taken.
- Burglary – A residence on Old Hwy 81 was burglarized.
- Theft – Four solar lights were taken from the end of the driveway at a residence on Blasingame Rd.
- Entering Auto – A vehicle on in Forest Ridge Subdivision on Forest Ridge Drive was entered and items were taken.
- Burglary/Stolen Vehicle – A gate was discovered open on Hwy 20 and a 1969 Chevy Malibu was stolen.
- Entering Auto – Four vehicles were entered on Hwy 20 and a vehicle was stolen.