Scrap metal recyclers’ efforts lead to the arrest of 161 suspected thieves
Theft alert system enables national notifications

In the first six months of 2008, OmniSource helped police make 161 arrests of individuals suspected of possessing and attempting to sell stolen materials at yards owned by the Fort Wayne, Indiana-based company.

Like many scrap recycling facilities across the country, OmniSource works closely with local law enforcement agencies in a coordinated effort to curb theft of materials, a problem that has grown as prices for metallic and non-metallic commodities have risen in recent months.

“We employ local off-duty police officers to work at a number of our retail operations,” states Jeff Wilke, corporate safety-security manager for OmniSource. “Our personnel provide training in materials recycling to the police officers so that they are better able to spot recyclables that would not ordinarily be purchased at the retail level. The officers then join our employees at the scale, allowing them to interact with customers, to spot suspicious items and to question those who are in possession of them. The result is that this combined effort has led to the arrests of 161 people...people who have stripped homes of copper and other materials, employees that steal from their businesses, thieves who vandalize and steal railroad infrastructure materials.”

Local law enforcement officers working with OmniSource are investigating another 165 cases where information gathered during initial investigations resulted in follow-up by police. That in turn has led to a number of arrest warrants being issued.

Theft of materials - ranging from copper wiring and plumbing from residences and commercial buildings to basic infrastructure such as manhole covers and sewer grates - has become an overwhelming problem for communities, police, and also recyclers themselves. In fact, more than half of the nation’s recyclers have been victims of one or more thefts in the past year.

“Materials theft is a growing problem that affects all aspects of a community, and cooperation between affected parties is an essential part of the solution,” stated Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) president Robin Wiener.

On the national level, ISRI’s efforts to combat the materials theft problem include partnering with the National Crime Prevention Council to help educate law enforcement about the industry and the tools ISRI has available to aid law enforcement. ISRI operates a nationwide Theft Alert System that allows law enforcement, scrap recyclers, or victims of theft to quickly broadcast an e-mail alert about a theft to scrap recyclers and other stakeholders, not only in the state where the theft occurred, but in surrounding states as well. The system can also be used to post “reverse alerts” when recyclers identify material they suspect has been stolen.

The ISRI Theft Alert System is available free of charge to law enforcement and qualified victims of materials theft throughout the country. The alerts have been effective in successfully solving many thefts over the past two years. To use the ISRI Theft Alert System, the theft must first be reported to local law enforcement and should include as much identifying information on the materials as possible, including photographs if available. Send the email to

ISRI has also developed “Recommended Practices and Procedures for Minimizing the Risks of Purchasing Stolen Scrap Materials,” that recyclers can employ at their facilities to minimize the risk of unintentionally purchasing stolen materials.

For more information about ISRI’s Theft Alert System, visit .