FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Builders, electricians, painters and many crew members drive in and out of neighborhoods under construction make it hard for residents to keep track of suspicious activity.
This is an optimal situation for a stranger to waltz in a halfway finished home, pop out the circuit breaker box and slip away unnoticed.
Unfortunately, this is not a hypothetical situation.
According to Forsyth County Sheriff’s incident reports, at least three neighborhoods and nine homes have circuit breaker boxes burglarized since late June to early July.
On June 24, the site manager at The Estates at Old Atlanta, off Old Atlanta Road and Azalea Bluff Drive, told deputies two homes under construction had several circuit breakers stolen. About 22 circuit breakers were missing and each breaker cost about $40 at a total of $880.
On July 11, four more homes were hit in the same neighborhood. The site manager told deputies at all four locations, someone removed the covers from the fuse boxes and took between 10 to 20 breakers.
The building supervisor of Post Brooks Farm neighborhood off Post Road and Chestnut Road also reported circuit breaker thefts to the sheriff’s office.
From June 21 to June 24, the supervisor told deputies someone had gone into an unfinished home that was left unlocked and removed 28 circuit breakers totaling $540. The other home was also under construction and left unlocked.
The supervisor said 23 breakers were stolen from this home valued at about $390.
Deputy Doug Rainwater said he can understand why copper theft occurs regularly, because thieves scrap it and sell it to metal yards for easy cash.
But, he said he is unsure of what happens to circuit breakers after they are stolen.
Meriann Stokes, a county sheriff investigator working on the claims, said there are theories, but not any proof as to what is happening to stolen circuit breakers.
“Resale to independent contractors, scrap, or attempting to return to a home improvement store for credit,” Stokes said. “However, any of these reasons have not been proven as a motive in these particular cases.”
Stokes said the sheriff’s office believes the crimes were committed by the same perpetrator as the method of entry, items taken and area targeted is uniquely similar.
It seems the thief or thieves unscrew the panel door, cut the wires connecting the breakers to the panel and remove the breakers in rows.
In one home at The Estates at Old Atlanta, the site manager said the thief left four circuit breakers and the power was still on when he observed the damage.
Even though witnesses said it looked as if could be the work of an electrician, Stokes said practically anyone can be responsible.
“I would not limit the investigation to one profession in particular, i.e. electrician,” Stokes said. “As the item being taken is a circuit breaker, and does not necessarily take an advanced skill level to remove.”
Because these homes under construction seem to be a target, and an easier one at that, Stokes warns new residents to be on the lookout for anything suspicious.
“Our deputies will be more than willing to come out and investigate the issue,” Stokes said. “It is always more helpful to gain information from the community and build a working relationship for the information to flow.”
Anyone with information tips should call 911 or the non-emergency 770-781-3087.