Metal thefts have become a nuisance and danger for our communities across the nation.
They have become a hardship for government and state authorities, local businesses and metal recyclers. The increase in demand combined with easy access to material in the domestic and international markets have driven prices to a point that invites crime.
In response, the scrap recycling industry has joined forces with government and local authorities and developed several initiatives to combat metal thefts.
The "Nonferrous Metal Regulatory Act" helps state and local authorities along with metal recyclers in the prevention of metal thefts. Because nonferrous metals such as copper, brass, and aluminum do not contain significant quantities of steel or iron, they are more valuable metals and therefore more commonly stolen.
To prevent nonferrous theft, the law requires metal recyclers to collect information such as identification cards, thumbprints, and license plate numbers. Recyclers are also responsible for looking at the material more cautiously before purchasing.
Recyclers exercise caution by obtaining receipts and/or written documentation of the origin of the material and also by having a good knowledge of metals and how they are used. If the metal buyer feels the material is questionable they can tag and hold the material for a minimum of 7 days. This gives victims and law enforcement an opportunity to search for the stolen property. Another section of the law states that the metal recycler should participate with an online database that tracks and lists thefts of nonferrous metal.
As the "Voice of the Recycling Industry," the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. (ISRI) leads the way in advocating the critical role scrap recycling plays in the U.S. economy, global trade, and the environment.
In an attempt to combat theft, ISRI has developed a new online theft reporting system available to law enforcement and recyclers (www.ScrapTheftAlert.com). This service is free of charge. The system allows law enforcement to send out prompt alerts to recyclers in a 100-mile radius from where the theft occurred. The alerts contain vital information such as location, descriptions of the material stolen, and information on individuals and/or vehicles that may have been involved in the theft.
For example, two young men came to our retail buying operation in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with a large amount of new copper tubing which had been bent to fit in the trunk of their car. One of our buyers thought the men and the material seemed suspicious. We immediately tagged the material and put it aside to hold.
Within minutes, a detective from the local police department issued theft alert on www.ScrapTheftAlert.com detailing stolen copper tubing from a nearby construction site. The detective also called local metal recyclers. We worked with the detective and it was determined that the copper tubing brought to us had in fact been stolen from the nearby construction site. The two men were identified and 100% of the stolen property was recovered.
This is just one example showing the progress that recyclers as well as local and government agencies have made through working together. Here are some suggestions on how you can help prevent metal thefts.
- Make material theft a high-priority crime
- Vigorously prosecute thieves
- Alert Crime Watch programs
- Establish partnerships with recyclers
- Use the ISRI Theft Alert System
Individuals and Businesses:
- Recognize the value of materials.
- Secure potential target materials.
- Mark materials for easier identification.
- Start a Crime Watch program.
Shay Schupan, Retail Operations Manager
Schupan Industrial Recycling Services