Updated 10/16/2012 11:10 PM
Putting metal thieves behind bars
As the cost of metal continues to rise, so do the crimes associated with it. Utica officials say metal from around the city is stolen and sold as scrap metal. And while they know this is a common issue, the problem is being able to catch the thieves involved. Our Cara Thomas says that's where Senator Charles Schumer has stepped in to help.
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UTICA, N.Y. -- It's not uncommon in the City of Utica for road signs or manhole covers to be stolen. Nor is it uncommon to find a house, abandoned or occupied, with metal stripped from the inside out, where the metal is then sold for quick cash.
Utica Police Department Sgt. Steven Hauck said, "We think it's the same people who are doing this. It's essentially a living for them. If we can stop them from going out and committing crimes and stealing, this it's going to lessen the amount of people out there doing it."
Not only are these thefts a financial inconvenience to the city and residents, but it's a safety concern. Missing manhole covers could cause an accident and ripped out piping could cause explosions or flooding.
"We've seen this many times where they've essentially flooded homes and destroyed homes over $50 worth of copper piping," said Hauck.
And while police say they know these thefts and sales are occurring, catching them is the hard part as there's no proof of the transaction. But new legislation proposed by Senator Charles Schumer could help.
"This is what we want to say to the metal thieves: Stop. We're going to stop you. And we're going to do it by smart legislation that will stop you cold in your tracks," says Schumer.
The proposed law would enforce the regulation of scrap metal sales. The legislation states that anyone selling the metal will have to present identification. Recycle companies will be required to keep records of all metal sales and transactions over $100 will be paid through a check, not cash.
Schumer said, "Then there's a path, then there's tracing, then you can find these guys and they can't get the cold cash anymore."
Schumer is hoping this legislation will become federal law, to keep thieves from going to other counties or states to make their scrap sales. He also says this law could put repeat offenders in jail for at least three years.
Senator Schumer says these kinds of thefts are not only a problem in Central New York, they occur nationwide. His goal is to have the legislation passed by early next year.