Officials: Parts theft on the rise

Published 3:00 am Saturday, January 21, 2012

Escambia County sheriff’s officials made an arrest last week in the theft of parts to be used as scrap metal — a problem law enforcement officials said is growing.
Deputies said they have been playing a cat and mouse game with suspect Fred Carlton Ward over the past few months — but it finally came to an end with arrests last week.
Investigator Preston Hill said Fred Carlton Ward, 44, of Jay, Fla., was identified by witnesses as the suspect who stole some air conditioner parts from a man on Old Atmore Road on Aug. 25, 2011.
“We had been prevented from making an arrest because Ward went into hiding,” Hill said. “We were never able to catch him at his home, but this past week, he was identified in a local recycling business in Flomaton. He was taken to the detention center and charged with theft of property, second degree; criminal mischief, second degree; criminal trespassing, third degree; and failure to appear.”
Tiffany Brewer, 36, of Jay, was also arrested and charged with theft of property, second degree; criminal mischief, second degree; and criminal trespassing, third degree. As of Friday, Jan. 20, the two had not appeared at a bond hearing and both are bring held in the detention center.
Hill said the theft of copper and other metals has been on the rise. Not only are businesses being hit with this string of thefts, but individuals are also having problems. Residents are asked to report anything they might see that is suspicious, so the suspects can be apprehended.
State Sen. Ben Brooks, R-Mobile, has said he plans to introduce legislation during the upcoming legislative session that would place stronger requirements on scrap metal buyers and increase penalties on thieves, making certain violations a felony.
The bill reportedly would also require buyers to pay for copper purchases, regardless of value, with a check; provide an electronic record of the purchase, including seller’s identification, to law enforcement within 24 hours; hold scrap copper for three business days after purchase, among others.