Legislature considering bill to track scrap metal - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Legislature considering bill to track scrap metal

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

Scrap metal is continuing to bring in strong prices.  Copper, for example, is currently bringing in almost $4 a pound.  And that's driving thieves to steal metal and sell it to scrap yards. 

Now, Iowa legislators are trying to crack down with a law that might help catch those crooks.

The Iowa House just passed a bill that would create a paper trail for anyone that tries to sell metals to a scrap yard.  The hope is that information could help police nab thieves.

At A-Line Iron and Metals in Waterloo, you'll find an eight-foot fence around the entire property and security cameras everywhere.  It's aimed at keeping potential metal thieves at bay.  And the business looks for signs that items being brought in to sell could be stolen.

"If they're brand new production materials coming in that you wouldn't expect those materials to come in or somebody you've never seen before, especially in large quantities, that would definitely raise a flag," said Chad Hoversten with A-Line Iron and Metals.

What helps is that A-Line has a lot of frequent, repeat business customers, bringing in metals to sell and recycle.  The company keeps track of those businesses and anyone off the street who comes in to sell scrap.  And a new law making its way through the state house would require all scrap yards to do that and more.

"Asking for identification at the point of sale is the only thing I see that we would have to do different," said Hoversten.

Gathering all that paperwork could be a bigger challenge for smaller scrap yards that don't have such practices in place now.  The proposed law would also force scrap dealers to pay sellers by check or electronic deposit.  Together, police hope that paper trail will make it easier to catch metal thieves.

"I think any time you can help track and regulate something like that makes it less easy for somebody that might commit that type of crime," said Lt. Michael McNamee with the Waterloo Police Department.

Police say it's tough to catch metal thieves now, because often, materials are taken from vacant properties or construction sites and it may take the owner a while to even notice the theft.  So enhancing partnerships with scrap dealers to track materials that are bought and sold is a step that could help match missing loot with who's unloading it.

The scrap metal tracking bill now moves to the full Iowa Senate.  If passed, it would also enforce penalties, of fines up to $1000, for dealers that fail to keep records of their customers.

Additional Notes:

The law would provide exemptions if the transaction is less than $50 (unless it is a catalytic converter being sold) and if the company is making a transaction with another established business, which operations from a fixed location.

Read the proposed bill here.

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