Editor's note: The following story is the final report of a multi-part series on the ongoing problem of copper and scrap metal theft in Graham and Young County. The series explores multiple aspects of the community affected by this crime trend.
After the Graham City Council meeting last Thursday, Graham Police Chief Tony Widner discussed with the council for several minutes the issue of copper and scrap metal theft, as well as what needs to be done to eviscerate the problem.
“I think that they're (the council) hearing the concerns of the public, and they'd like to have a meeting and see what could be done,” Widner said. “I think that the city council has heard one side of the issue, and now they want to hear the other side. They're pretty good about getting all of the facts before they make a decision.”
One thing seems certain, it is a problem that is not going away. One possible solution proposed by various members of the community, as well as copper theft victims, has been to require permits issued by the Graham Police Department in order to sell scrap metal. The thinking for this possible policy is that people with criminal records will not want to go to a police station to get a permit. Chief Widner is contemplating both sides of this proposed solution.
“With any piece of legislation, you have to weigh the pros and the cons,” Widner said. “The positive side of it is that people conducting illegal activity would have had to come to the police department to get a permit. We know who those people are, and under the guidelines of the ordinance that the people were requesting, anyone with a criminal history for this type of offense, they would not be able to get a permit for it. That would have restricted them from selling in Graham. They would have had to find transportation for them to go out of town to sell their product.”
Widner said that while that is one benefit, he wonders if the inconvenience to every person legitimately selling their scrap metal would be worth passing the proposed ordinance.
“But when you pass that kind of ordinance, then everybody, from the cub scouts picking up scrap metal, aluminum cans and things like that, or just your average plumber who is redoing a house, possibly could have fallen under that ordinance,” he said.