Despite efforts by lawmakers and the metals industry, scrap metal theft continues worldwide.
Singapore's Straitstimes.com reported today that metal thieves there are targeting letter boxes. Apparently more than 200 metal letter boxes were stolen in the past two days. According to the report, this is believed to be the first time metal thieves in the area have made off with letter boxes. They typically pilfer metal signs, drain covers, and railings.
In the U.K., thieves stole two large skips (waste containers) containing scrap metal from an Ely-based manufacturing company in May. The skips alone cost the company £2,700 each when empty. Add scrap metal, and the company is out £9,440.
The U.K. manufacturer is now considering buying expensive baling equipment that will enable large blocks of metal to be kept securely indoors. "A baler costs about £10,000, but it is probably worth it," said the company's finance director and secretary. "We've tried to secure the area, but last time the thieves just drove straight through trees and hedges to get to the scrap. They will get to it if they are determined enough."
A little closer to home, a lawmaker in California hasn't given up on curtailing metal theft. State Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, has introduced bill SB 691, which, if passed, would require scrap recycling buyers to fingerprint and photograph all metal sellers.
Rising scrap metal values have prompted thieves in Calderon's district—and everywhere else that metal is available—to target everything from copper piping to fire hydrants.
Quoted in a Whittier Daily News article, Calderon said, "[Metal theft] is just becoming a bigger problem. Construction sites are being raided, transportation sites are being raided, and now we are hearing stories that copper thieves are doing this at their own peril."
Calderon's bill would require anyone selling copper, copper alloys, aluminum, and stainless steel to leave a thumbprint. It also requires sellers to show government ID and proof of current address.
Believing the proposal could give some support to law enforcement, Irwindale, Calif., police Chief Sol Benudiz said "When people walk in with fire hydrants or pipes that have clearly not been used, it is obvious that this stuff is stolen. This bill is putting a little more burden on the scrap dealers." As well it should. If there were no market for stolen metal, thieves would cease to steal it. Responsible, ethical scrap recyclers likely already are going above and beyond what's mandated to make sure they don"t accept stolen metal. These dealers probably will not object to Calderon's bill.
Dealers who willingly take the hydrants, unused pipe, loads of letter boxes, and other so-called scrap obtained illegally will balk. Those in opposition to the bill have a powerful organization fighting on their behalf. Reportedly, the American Civil Liberties Union opposes the bill because of the thumbprint provision. While the ACLU may purpose that they are objecting to protect the innocent, doing so benefits the guilty more. What a crock—make that a skip—of waste.