What can be done about copper and metal thefts? (with related video)
The media is full of news about efforts to deter thieves who swipe copper and other ferrous and non-ferrous metals.
In Georgia, about 75 law enforcement officers met in Monroe County recently to learn ways to reduce the number of metal thefts across the Peach State.
An organizer of the event, Chip Koplin of Schnitzer Steel Industries, told attendees that keeping officers informed about Georgia recycling laws was one of the purposes of the police training session. Koplin said that the number of metal thefts had dropped in the state, thanks to recent laws that the Georgia General Assembly has passed. He added that outreach efforts by police to work with the recycling community were also a factor.
Three new laws in Arizona specify a number of initiatives that aim to reduce metal thefts. With the new legislation in place, the next step in the process is to train scrap dealers and police to make the system work. The new Arizona laws include:
HB 2262: Requires scrap metal dealers to register with the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) and to review information on stolen scrap metal that DPS shares via a website.
SB 1107: Expands the definition of theft to include ferrous and non-ferrous metals.
HB 2386: Modifies the definition of criminal damage to include tampering with a public utility to obtain scrap metal.
To find out about efforts to reduce metal thefts in the U.S., GPN caught up with Dan Hilton, who is director of government affairs at the Itasca, Ill.-based American Supply Association (ASA). The ASA is a not-for-profit national organization that serves wholesaler-distributors and their suppliers in the plumbing-heating-cooling-piping and industrial pipe-valve-fitting industry. The ASA provides legislative and regulatory advocacy to its members. It also offers ongoing business intelligence, employee training and continuing education, as well as peer-to-peer networking. Hilton’s views are below.
GPN: Does ASA have any advice for local and state governments that want to thwart metal thieves?
Dan Hilton: State and local governments should certainly step up their efforts as a renewed ‘show of force.’ Copper and other metal theft impacts critical communications that we use daily, along with every homeowner’s ability to heat and cool their homes.
GPN: What are the consequences of these crimes?
DH: Copper and other metal theft not only leads to higher replacement costs, but the costs to repair this damage must also be factored into the equation. When a block of streetlights goes out, or a commuter train is at risk of derailment, that’s a public safety crisis waiting to happen. What higher priority does local government have than the safety of its citizens?
GPN: What else can local governments do?
DH: Creating effective deterrents such as targeted enforcement and establishing multi-jurisdictional task forces would send a strong message of zero tolerance to would-be thieves, as well as the many recyclers that may be knowingly or unknowingly buying stolen goods that are essential to our everyday lives.
GPN: Can local governments do anything else?
DH: Local governments can communicate with their federally elected officials about the importance of passing the Metal Theft Reduction Act of 2013. That legislation will provide one more tool in the toolbox to deter metal thieves.
GPN: Thank you, Dan Hilton.
This video discusses the drop in scrap metal thefts in the Tampa Bay, Fla., area. A new state law in Florida may be the reason.