Clamp down on scrap metal thieves

From the Detroit News

Blight is eating away at neighborhoods in Detroit and other urban communities in Michigan, abetted by scrap metal thieves who strip buildings of their pipes and wires. These thefts render many of the structures too expensive to rehabilitate.

The Michigan Senate is considering a three-bill package aimed directly at illegal scrappers. The new laws would give police and prosecutors more tools to combat the thieves, and to hold metal dealers accountable for what they purchase. Lawmakers should give their approval.

The legislation would require anyone selling scrap metal more than two times per year to purchase a valid permit from their local sheriff’s office for $25.

Dealers would have to maintain records of what they buy, and from whom, and would only be able to buy scrap from sellers who have obtained a permit.

Penalties for scrap dealers who buy or sell stolen metals would be increased. They include loss of their license for one year, five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

The legislation has the support of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, among others. Officials say the proposed laws will help with the prosecution of scrappers and scrap yards that violate the law.

One key component is the establishment of a Scrap Metal Offenders Registry, financed by a $1 fee on each metal transaction, paid by the seller.

The revenue would be divided equally between a Scrap Metal Offenders Registration Fund and local law enforcement to help create and maintain the registry.

Stopping illegal scrapping is an essential piece of urban renewal efforts. In Detroit, scrappers have become so bold they even steal the copper parts out of streetlights, accounting for an estimated 25 percent of the non-working lights in the city.

Metal product thefts also hit schools, churches, cemeteries, parks, farms, automobiles and occupied houses.

The legislation has bipartisan support in the Senate; it’s co-sponsored by Sens. Virgil Smith, D-Detroit, and Michael Kowall, R-White Lake Township.

Detroit and other struggling urban communities need every possible weapon in their war against blight. These new laws should give law enforcement more leverage against both thieves and the crooked dealers who enable them.

Passage of the package would signal that Michigan is serious about attacking illegal scrapping.


From The Detroit News: