Sunday, January 08, 2012

Dealing With Stolen Recycled Metals

Stolen metals have been making the news for some time now. The Sacramento Bee reports on the frustration everybody is having in dealing with it. For some reason the stolen manhole covers catch my attention. I wonder if there might be a relatively easy solution to at least make it harder to market stolen manhole covers?

I hate to be the libertarian proposing new laws. I realize it's easier said than done and there would likely be unintended consequences to any new laws regarding the selling of scrap metal, but I think my manhole cover idea might actually help a little:

Just about any manhole cover in existence belongs to a government entity of some sort. Whether it be a city, county or municipal services district, who else would have reason to legally own a manhole cover? I can't think of anyone or any reason any of those entities would sell one of their manhole covers.

Have those government entities develop a sales certificate for manhole covers (and drainage grates and whatever). If they sell some metal object for scrap the form would be filled out, a seal stamped on it and it would be signed by department head in that entity- perhaps their public works director.

A manhole cover or drainage grate couldn't be sold to a recycling center without that form. Sure, it could be forged, but how many manhole covers and such are actually being brought in to recycling centers? It would be easy to just make a phone call to the government agency to confirm the few attempted sales.

You might even have to stop allowing cut metal to be sold without a certificate. I'm sure many of these manhole covers are cut up into smaller pieces to avoid identification.

I can't help but also wonder if it might be a good idea to require scrap metal sellers to keep a record of who and/ or where they acquired the metal they're trying to sell? That way dealers and police could follow up if something doesn't seem right.

Again, I realize this is easier said than done and I certainly don't want to make the lives of people like this any more difficult. But the certificate of sale by government agencies for manholes and such seems like it might make it enough of a hassle that thieves might leave the manhole covers alone.


At 10:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem becomes how to differentiate between legitimate drop from a metal shop vs stolen metal, in this case steel. And steel is nearly worthless right now, for recycling. Also, you do have to give a name etc when dropping off steel in Fortuna.

I have always wondered why if these folks are willing to work so hard for so little, why they don't get jobs.

At 11:22 AM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

The problem becomes how to differentiate between legitimate drop from a metal shop vs stolen metal,....

Exactly, and I don't want to see legit scrappers getting jerked around when they try to sell legally acquired scrap.

I think requiring a bill of sale or something along that line when selling manhole covers or drain grills is a no- brainer, except I have to wonder how many thieves bring an entire manhole cover in to sell? I would think they'd get a torch and cut it up first. How do you tell if they do that? One commenter to the Bee article mentioned how obvious it would be if each piece of steel had a letter that, together, would spell "City of Sacramento".

If nothing else, it might be a paperwork hassle, but requiring sellers to have a written record of where they acquired their metals might not be too much of a hassle and buyers or police could always follow up if they felt a batch of steel was suspicious. But how well would that work?

Also, you do have to give a name etc when dropping off steel in Fortuna.

I don't know about Fortuna but it might be state law now you have to show ID for some metals. Just a few days ago they scanned my driver's license at Eureka City Garbage when I turned in a garbage can full of crushed aluminum cans.

That kind of illustrates how difficult it would be to tell if something was stolen. They have my driver's license info, but how would they know where I got those cans from?

And I did have over half a garbage can full of cans stolen from my back patio a few months ago. I'm sure they took their ID info when the thieves turned it in, but how could anyone tell the cans were stolen?

But I'm not worried so much about cans as much as city utility type stuff and copper wire that costs a lot of money to replace.

At 12:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahh, we look more like the third-world every day.


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