Bills tightening rules on scrapping pass state House

LANSING — Scrap metal thieves and unscrupulous dealers will have a harder time doing business under a pair of bills passed Thursday by the state House of Representatives with a wide bipartisan majority.

“This will help so many Michiganders by helping hold these thieves who are ripping off so many people accountable,” said state Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit.

The bills, which passed 98-9 and 99-8, will require scrap dealers to wait three days before making payment on catalytic converters, air conditioners and copper wire, which are the main targets of scrap metal thieves.

The bills also prohibit scrap dealers from taking items that clearly don’t belong to the scrapper, like manhole covers, cemetery statues and stop signs.

It also requires scrap dealers to either provide photographs or video of items being brought in by scrappers, so law enforcement can match items with the people who bring them in for sale.

Scrap metal thefts have become epidemic in both urban and rural areas. Michigan is ranked 10th in the nation in the number of insurance claims from scrap metal theft.

In 2006-08, there were 13,861 insurance claims due to scrap metal theft. Utilities and railroad companies have complained that transformers are being stripped of copper wire, leaving neighborhoods in the dark; and signal crossings are being stripped, leaving railway crossing gates not functioning.

“Now we have close to 30,000 claims for metal theft,” said Tlaib, who has had two catalytic converters stolen from cars in her southwest Detroit neighborhood.

But it’s not just urban areas that are being victimized, said state Rep. Paul Muxlow, R-Brown City.

“We’ve had a large amount of theft from wind turbine machines in our areas,” he said.

He called the bills an excellent package. “But it will not stop metal theft in state. We’re simply asking that more data be collected from salvage yards so law enforcement can do their jobs.”

The bills now move to the Senate.

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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