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Scrap metal theft, a precious metal for criminals

Posted in Crime Prevention February 17th, 2009 @ 2:02 pm

The Minnesota House Public Safety and Civil Justice Committee recently approved a bill that would help law enforcement agencies apprehend and prosecute scrap metal thieves. This bill HF457 requires scrap metal dealers to keep records of every purchase of scrap metal and have it available to law enforcement agencies. The bill also requires dealers to install, maintain and operate video surveillance cameras and require that all payments for scrap metal be by check.

Thieves have been stealing copper pipes and wires at an alarming rate, as it has become a source for fast and easy cash. As a result the price of copper pipes and wires are rising and affects utilities, abandoned houses and construction sites and costs thousands of dollars to replace.

Sen. Linda Higgins, DFL-Minneapolis, introduced a companion bill in the Senate that would increase the penalties for scrap metal theft. The bill calls for up to 20 years in prison for metal theft if the stolen property was a conduit for gas or electricity and “was removed in a manner that creates a risk of death or bodily harm or serious property damage.”

However, this current legislation has opposition. Some say that this legislation would unfairly put police responsibilities on recycling businesses and place unrealistic reporting requirements on businesses that may see 300 to 400 customers a day. In addition, scrap metal doesn’t have serial numbers on it, so how can you tell if the metal is stolen. Even recyclers have been victims of copper and metal theft. Finally, the principal of regulating businesses does not fair well with the opposition. However, this is a huge property loss for everyone involved and passing some type of legislation is a high priority.

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