Scrap dealers struggle to thwart thieves
Katz receives reports of stolen scrap metal on a daily basis. “Every
day there is a new issue,” said Katz, co-owner of City Scrap
& Salvage Co. in Akron Ohio.
Thieves are taking everything from aluminum siding
to copper wire and tubing from construction sites and production
plants around the country. Scrap dealers are also often targets.
“Prices are high and people are taking advantage of that,”
Katz coordinates a theft alert system for the
Northern Ohio chapter of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries.
Every time Katz receives a report of stolen scrap metal he forwards
e-mails with information detailing the theft to other scrap metal
An alert went out in June detailing the theft
of 30 newspaper vending machines that were stolen from the offices
of The Gazette newspaper in Medina, Ohio. The metal boxes were awaiting
shipment for refurbishing and each one weighed about 80 pounds.
City Scrap & Salvage, which operates a ferrous
and non-ferrous scrap facility, has not had recent problems with
theft, Katz said, due to a high-tech security system put in a few
years ago. “We have a pretty good security system,”
If a thief breaks into the scrap yard, the intruder
will break a light beam, alerting a security company, which has
the remote capability to focus a video camera on the intruder. The
security company then is able to announce over a loudspeaker at
the yard that the intruder has been spotted. The security company
then calls the local police.
City Scrap & Salvage has also implemented
a system to try and prevent thieves from selling it stolen material.
City Scrap & Salvage requires anyone selling scrap to provide
a driver’s license. It scans the license and automatically
puts the name of the seller, along with his or her address, birthday
and physical description on a receipt.
Katz said police like to have a physical description
of every peddler that comes in. City Scrap & Salvage also writes
a check for any transaction over $50. “When people are bringing
in stolen merchandize they don’t like to leave a trail,”
Katz said. “I think we deter a lot of stolen merchandise coming
into our facility by our procedures.”
The stolen scrap-alert system also provides further
prevention against theft, Katz said. “We need notification.
If we, the scrap recyclers, don’t know it’s stolen and
someone brings it in, we have no way of catching the guy. Notification
is the key.” Katz said.
Information about the theft of stolen scrap metal
is also forwarded to surrounding states, Katz said. “It is
very possible that something will be stolen from Akron and end up
in Pittsburgh. There is no saying what somebody might do to get
it out of the region.”
The initiative was recently successful when some
scrap metal was stolen in Solen, Ohio and taken to nearby Cleveland,
Katz said. “The company that it was delivered to recognized
the photos that I sent out and notified the authorities,”
Katz said. “Come to find out it was one of the employees of
this company stealing aluminum wire.”
It is difficult to track the amount of stolen
scrap metal on a national basis, said Chuck Carr, a spokesperson
for the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) in Washington
D.C. Carr coordinates the theft alert system on a national basis
for the association.
“Unfortunately we don’t hear about
many of the thefts,” Carr said. “Whenever we are contacted
by one of our members or by law enforcement, we’re happy to
put out the information, not only in the state where the theft occurred,
but in all surrounding states.”
A theft reported this summer to ISRI included
more than 100 metal plates in West Memphis, Arkansas. Thieves stole
8 pieces of 1-inch thick stainless steel plates, 72 inches by 120
inches. The theft also included 102 pieces of .250-inch aluminum
plates, 68 by 160 inches, plus 9 pieces of ¾ inch carbon
steel plates, 60 inches by 120 inches.
The problem of identifying stolen scrap is not
due to an act of omission by the scrap industry, according to ISRI.
In order to recycle vast quantities of scrap materials required
by the industries that manufacture new products, members of recycling
industry purchase, process and sell hundreds of thousands of tons
of scrap every day. These scrap commodities consist of millions
of separate items, making the identification of suspect items difficult
because materials are purchased by weight, according to ISRI.
“We are seeing more scrap theft today then
we have in the past,” Carr said. Scrap metal dealers are also
often the victims of theft, Carr added. “If you’re looking
to steal metal, where are you going to find more scrap metals than
in a scrap yard?”
There are a number of things that can be done
by scrap dealers to prevent theft, Carr said. In addition to security
systems, yards may want to consider hiring guards. He said scrap
yards should also gather as much information from the peddlers as
Carr also advises members that it is important
to notify police about metal theft.
Law enforcement agencies are stepping efforts
as well. One example is the Joint Interagency Metals Task Force
set up in the Portland, Oregon region. The task force is made up
of the Portland Police Bureau, Marion County Sheriff’s Office,
Linn County Sheriff’s Office, Bureau of Land Management, the
Department of Energy/Office of Inspector General, Oregon State Department
of Justice, and the Federal Protective Service.
Earlier this year, the United States Attorney
for the District of Oregon indicted eight people for damaging and
stealing metal from electric sub-stations owned by Portland General
Electric and Bonneville Power Administration. Prosecutors accused
the defendants of using bolt cutters, wire cutters and pole-climbing
equipment to attack, dismantle and damage energy facilities in several
Oregon locations. The task force estimates that the metal thefts
caused millions of dollars in damage to Oregon’s economy.
“This is an issue that is of concern to
law enforcement,” Carr said. Scrap metal theft “should
be a concern with anybody within the recycling industry and it is
up to us to play a part in solving the problem,” Carr added.
“No reputable scrap dealers want to intentionally take stolen
scrap. We want to find ways to reduce this problem.”