COCOA, FLA. -- When a thief swiped three air-conditioning units over
the Memorial Day weekend and caused $15,500 in damage to one of the 19
commercial buildings Ralph Perrone owns along Florida's Space Coast, he
became so frustrated he formed a scrap-metal theft task force with law
The task force is studying how to implement a new
metal-theft law. In July, Florida became one of the most recent states
to adopt legislation aimed at stopping scrapyard sales of everything
from stolen beer kegs, A/C coils and catalytic converters to utility
wires and other metal items.
Under the new Florida law, secondhand
dealers must obtain signed statements, thumbprints and photographs from
sellers; purchase metal via check or bank transfer; and transmit
transaction records to law enforcement officials.
states have some form of law requiring scrap metal dealers to maintain
documentation of sales, said Danielle Waterfield, assistant counsel with
the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries. Monday, North Carolina
enacted a law requiring recyclers to take digital photos or video of
customers posing with the metal items they are selling. The two states
without laws are North Dakota and Alaska, she said.
Insurance Crime Bureau reported this spring that metal theft claims have
increased 81% from Jan. 1, 2009, to Dec. 31, 2011. States generating
the most claims were Ohio, Texas, Georgia, California and Illinois. The
bureau reported the increased thefts were driven by rising prices for
base metals-especially copper.
Waterfield likened the rise of state laws boosting punishment for metal thefts to tougher state laws combating drunken driving.
seeing thieves rip off the air-conditioning units off local churches.
We've seen them steal manholes, leaving gaping holes in our streets. And
we're seeing thieves who are showing disregard for their own lives
cutting into electrical stations," she said.
The institute has
established an online metal-theft notification system to alert
scrapyards of "hot" materials. Among the recent listings:
-Someone stole more than 100 aluminum heavy-truck wheels in Wyoming, Mich.
-Someone stole 10 to 12 500-foot rolls of copper wire valued at $2,200 from a city vehicle in Fort Collins, Colo.
states with existing laws are looking to get tougher. The New Jersey
Legislature is considering a bill that would require recyclers to record
sellers' license-plate information and buy metal via non-transferable
check, among other stricter regulations.
Department of Justice will spend the next year funding and developing an
online database of scrapyard metal transactions.
Neale reports for Florida Today in Melbourne.