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Posted: June 21, 2012 7:54 p.m.

Porterdale police to combat copper theft

Porterdale residents can hope to see a decline in air conditioner thefts as the town's police department launched its copper theft program, Operation Copperhead, Thursday.

The Porterdale Police Department initiated the program by marking Mayor Arline Hayes Chapman's air conditioning (AC) unit Thursday. The police department will start the operation on the homes listed to participate.

Porterdale Police Chief Geoff Jacobs said each area of the Porterdale district will be designated a specific color. For homeowners who have requested to participate in the theft program, the housing of their AC will be taken off and the copper unit of the AC will be spray painted according to the area's color.

Marking each house will take 15 to 20 minutes.

The police department will have a list of the corresponding colors to each area. The colors will allow the scrap yards to recognize if the person had stolen the AC unit he or she brought to sell.

Investigator Douglas Clifton, of the Office of Criminal Investigations/Training, said Operation Copperhead is a "strictly volunteer" program. Interested residents should contact the Office of Criminal Investigations/Training at (770) 786-2226.

"Operation Copperhead gives the community assistance and security, knowing the law enforcement is involved," Clifton said. It will "improve the quality of life and "bond the community."

The program involves the Porterdale Landlord's Association, established by the police department in May, and the Community Watch Program. The police department is part of the Southeast Metal Theft Task Force, along with affiliates such as the Cobb, Gwinnett and Fulton county law enforcement agencies.

AC theft has been very common in neighborhoods around the county as ACs are easy to steal and contain copper coils that can be sold easily for cash. The U.S. Department of Energy found copper theft leads to a $1 billion dollar loss for the economy annually.

Efforts to prevent copper theft will help protect the community from financial loss. Clifton said he hopes the task force will finish marking Porterdale's homes in six months.

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