City Crime Commission Fights to Curb Copper Theft

Montgomery's Strategic Crime Commission
Montgomery's Strategic Crime Commission

It's a problem that has Montgomery's home and businesses owners on alert.

Time and time again, thieves destroy expensive equipment--even home air conditioners--to get their hands on copper.

Wednesday, at a meeting of the city's Strategic Crime Commission, local, county, and state officials came up with an idea:  a three-tiered plan that would apply minimum sentencing guidelines for any copper theft case that makes its way through Municipal court.

The graduated structure requires 30 days for the first offense, 60 days for the second offense, and the third offense earns at least six months behind bars.

"We're going to punish people for this..we're not going to fine them anymore," explained Mayor Bobby Bright.

The minimums would in fact prevent judges from handing down lighter sentences--keeping the culprits locked away.

"If you get caught, you better pack your toothbrush and get ready to spend some time in our jail," Bright said.

Punishment of copper thieves, however, proves to be a balancing act.  Police work to protect the public, but the sentences may risk of overcrowding the city's jail.

The mayor says that's a risk he's willing to take.

"Quite frankly, if we continue to have these types of copper thieves in the city, I don't mind packing them in like sardines if we have to," Bright explained.

Though the proposal may initially increase the jail's population, authorities say harsh punishment might deter would-be thieves from stealing in the first place.

"If we give those criminals an incentive to stop, such as giving them serious jail time, [. . .] then I think that you'll see the [jail] population actually decrease," said Capt. Huey Thornton of the Montgomery Police Department.

That, police say, is the ultimate goal.

"Anything we can do to reduce the number is definitely going to be beneficial," Thornton said.

Reporter:  Cody Holyoke