SUMTER COUNTY: Two arrested for copper wire irrigation theft

ALBANY -- The theft of copper wire from farm irrigation apparatus led to the arrest of two Americus men, stated a Sumter County Sheriff's Office report.

Brothers Jonathan Jerome Smith, 21, and Allen O'Neal Smith Jr., 23, of 113 N. Village Drive were arrested by deputies late Thursday evening as part of a continued investigation, the report stated.

"Sumter County as well as surrounding counties have been experiencing the theft of wire from agricultural irrigation systems," said Sheriff Pete Smith. "The investigation is continuing. (I) hope that the break in this case will lead to additional information helping investigators with this widespread problem."

Ameri-Green Recycling, off Mathews Drive, contacted deputies when the brothers brought in what looked like irrigation wire, the report stated. Investigators identified the wire and the suspects were arrested.

According to the report, after recovering about 200 feet of stolen wire, investigators found an irrigation system that had not been reported as damaged. When the vehicle used by the brothers was searched it yielded oxygen tanks for cutting torch use, toolboxes with tools and other cutting devices.

In general, once thieves cut wire from an irrigation system, they then strip or burn off the insulation. The next step is to sell the stripped wire at a scrap yard.

The website earthworksrecycling. com listed its highest price for "bright and shiny" copper wire at $3 a pound Friday. That is an increase of 55 cents since January.

Smith extended his thanks to Ameri-Green Recycling for reporting the suspects. He urged residents to report any unusual activity in the county, including farm areas.

"With the present drought conditions, a theft of this magnitude can affect a farmer's livelihood, with an irrigation system being incapacitated for days," Smith said. "That costs the farmer thousands of dollars.".