Proposed Law Would Target Metal Thieves in Sunshine State

Wed April 09, 2008 - Southeast Edition
CEG



FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) Stealing metal to sell for scrap is nothing new, but officials say thieves are going to greater lengths and thefts are becoming more disruptive.

The target in most thefts is copper and aluminum; bronze and brass, which contain copper, are also popular targets.

The thefts range from more traditional items like copper wire, hurricane shutters and air conditioning units to cemetery vases, catalytic converters and flush valves from public toilets.

Places from construction sites to citrus groves to cell phone towers have been targeted.

Thieves stole artificial body parts of people who had been cremated from a Tampa Bay area cemetery in January. Two men have been arrested on suspicion of selling the 2,000 lbs. worth of parts to a scrap yard for about $5,400.

Thieves are becoming more inventive with stealing materials because they’re motivated by money, said Bruce Savage, spokesman for the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc., a national trade association based in Washington, D.C.

“We have seen an uptick, as these commodity prices have continued to rise, worldwide,” Savage told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Copper scrap can be sold for more than $2 a pound.

To combat the thefts, Florida lawmakers are considering legislation to require dealers to gather and keep more information on sellers. Scrap metal thieves, and dealers who violate the law, would face stiffer fines and jail time if convicted.

The legislation should be good for the recycling industry, said Harold Solomon, who owns Best Recycling Services in Hollywood. A sign is already posted at his business warning customers that he cooperates with police investigating property thefts. He also requires customers to provide a driver’s license and to sign an affidavit, which is similar to the requirements in the proposed law.

“The ultimate goal is to cut down on the thefts in the secondary metals market,” said Rep. John Seiler, D-Wilton Manors, a co-sponsor of the bill. “This is a good example of us becoming aware of a problem and timely responding to resolve that problem.”