The main purpose of this study is to determine the prevalence of copper theft among residential home builders in Charleston, Greenville and Columbia in South Carolina. A survey will be carried out by mailing questionnaires to registered and active homebuilders in the above mentioned areas. The respondents will be provided with a self addressed and stamped envelope to encourage participation. In addition, they will also be given a web link to an online questionnaire for the tech savvy participants who would prefer to respond via the internet. This author obtained a comprehensive list of the registered homebuilders (located in the Appendix section of this study). This detailed list of the registered homebuilders was acquired from the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (SCLLR) under the Freedom for Information Act request.
In order to gain access to the residential home builders from each of this studies selected cities; I will first obtain the list of builders from the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulations. This will be accomplished by going to the lot labor, and licensing website and obtaining a freedom of information request form. This form will be filled out and mailed to the South Carolina Department of Licensing, Labor and Regulations along with applicable fees as stipulated by law. Due to the significance of the freedom of information act, this complete list will be easily obtained without further complication from any outside source. This list will be a complete list of residential homebuilders in the entire state of South Carolina, but I will only utilize the cities of Charleston, Columbia and Greenville. A copy of the freedom of information act form from the department of labor, licensing and regulations will be provided in the appendix section of the study.
The first step in Sampling is selection of the geographic area of the survey and it will happen in three cities of South Carolina namely Charleston, Greenville and Columbia. The SCLLR list of registered homebuilders will be used to select a sample population to be surveyed from these three areas. The homebuilders are chosen for this survey because they are more likely to have been targets of copper theft since they deal with copper regularly. They would also be more likely to participate in the survey more than homeowners since the cumulative effect of copper theft would end up driving down their profits and undermining their industry.
For this survey, the author will use simple random sampling because it the most useful tool in surveys that involve field interviews, and widely dispersed subjects. The list provides only the names, cities of registration and the company names. Demographic data such as physical location, size of companies, race, age or sex is not available so I will use simple random sampling to alphabetically choose every fifth prospective participant. Charleston City Sampling procedure: The total population of Charleston City registered homebuilders is 676. For the sample chosen to be a true representative of the entire population, it has to be at least 10%, so I will choose fifth homebuilder totaling n=126 residential home builders from Charleston, SC. Greenville, SC has a total of 513 registered residential home builders, so I will again choose every fifth homebuilder from my list totaling n=104 home builders for Greenville, SC. Finally, I will choose every fifth homebuilder, of the registered 510 homebuilders in Columbia, SC from the authors list of homebuilders, totaling n=102 for Columbia, SC. The numbers should be sufficient enough to return favorable results and give generalizability for this study. Simple random sampling should also maintain the integrity of my survey and meet current academic research trends.
Prior to mailing out the official survey; a pilot survey will be mailed out to twenty five home builders. This number should be sufficient enough to test the survey for understandability and accuracy. Once the pilot surveys have been received back the author will correct the functionality issues and immediately mail out the final survey to my total study participants. The participants who received the pilot survey will be asked to also complete the final survey and return the survey to the author as they have done with the previous survey.
After selection of homebuilders to be involved in the survey, questionnaires were sent by mail to their respective addresses. The addresses were not supplied by the SCLLR list and I had to obtain them from the directory using the company name. I used company addresses whenever possible as I thought mail sent to homes had a higher chance of being discarded as junk mail. The questionnaire was designed to find out whether the homebuilders had had any copper theft incidences in the past. The questions in the survey will eventually help me quantify the prevalence of copper theft in my areas of interest. The survey will also have supporting data in it such as; an estimate of the total amount of dollar losses in the past 12 months due to copper theft. The survey will also show some indication of how often internal copper theft is occurring among residential homebuilders in South Carolina. This survey will also indicate how often residential homebuilders are reporting instances of copper theft to law enforcement officials. The data obtained is then extrapolated and incidence of copper theft can be expressed as a percentage or a fraction to determine prevalence of copper theft in the respective cities.
The author will encourage the residential home builders to complete this survey by indicating the benefits of the survey to the homebuilder. The potential benefits to the homebuilder would be the outcome of the data collected from the survey. The data collected will indicate if copper theft is occurring often, or not within their area of operation. The builder could use this information to decide if extra security measures should be taken on his job sites. The builder could also use the data to decide which of the cities in the study puts his company at more risk for potential future operations.
The ethical issues encountered in this study will be very minimal. Only the personal information obtained through the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulations could cause harm to my survey participants. To protect my participants from having their personal information leaked into the public’s eyes; it is planned that personal information will be disposed upon completion of the study. The information in the list obtained from the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and regulations doesn’t necessarily have to be destroyed since it can be accessed via freedom of information request, but to take extra precaution to his educational institution and participants, the SCLLR list will be disposed of.
This study like most all studies conducted in the name of science, will have its own limitations. One limitation will be the fact that this study is limited to residential homebuilders, whose properties consists of vacant construction sites. The study doesn’t cover vacant homes, left unchecked by homeowners, foreclosed homes, and community related structures such as churches. This survey group will have some deviation due to the mobility of this group of individuals. For example, a residential homebuilder may be licensed in Columbia, but may build homes in the city Lexington, SC which is in the county of Lexington, SC. Thus, reporting of theft by a residential homebuilder in Columbia will not be 100% representative of the city which the residential homebuilder is licensed out of. Let it also be noted, that this study is limited to copper theft only, no other metals will be included in the survey data.
The above data should serve as an example to open the doors to this topic of research. Researchers now have a representative tool to in the research of further areas in copper theft, but not limited to copper to. The theft of precious metals is also a concern of which this study should lay a foundation for future researchers interested in the origin of metal theft, particularly in the regions of Charleston, Greenville and Columbia, South Carolina. Especially with the prices of precious metals and the demand of these metals continued to raise, so will the need for future research in the area of metal theft.