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Why should the scrap industry work to minimize theft?

Business owners in the recycling industry strongly agree that the purchase, processing, or sale of materials that are known to be stolen should not be tolerated. In addition, scrap recyclers are themselves often the victim of metal theft.

What is ISRI doing proactively to combat theft?

Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) is fully committed to working with law enforcement and affected parties to reduce the unintentional purchase, processing, or sale of stolen materials.

• ISRI is a member of and proud partner with the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC). NCPC uses their trademark McGruff The Crime Dog® to remind citizens to “Take a Bite out of Crime®.”

• ISRI has established a Theft Alert System, an email system to notify scrap recyclers to watch for reported stolen materials.

• ISRI has adopted “Recommended Practices and Procedures for Minimizing the Risks of Purchasing Stolen Scrap Materials.” Additional information may be found at www.isri.org/theftalert.

• Many ISRI members already require retail sellers to provide photo identification such as a driver’s license when making a transaction.

How does ISRI’s Theft Alert System Work?

ISRI’s Theft Alert System allows law enforcement, scrap recyclers, or victims of theft to broadcast an alert about the theft to ISRI’s email contacts. The person reporting the theft should include the date, time, and location of the theft; a complete description of the material stolen including photos, if available, and the name, phone number, and contact for the law enforcement agency where the theft was reported. ISRI then broadcasts this information to its email list, not only in the state where the theft occurred, but in all surrounding states as well.

More information can be found at www.isri.org/theftalert.

Laws already exist to handle this problem in pawnshops. Can’t that be extended to scrap recyclers?

There is a tremendous difference between pawn brokers and scrap processors. Many of the items accepted at pawn brokers are small and readily identifiable. In contrast, most of the metal brought to scrap yards is not marked or identifiable, and can be quite bulky. Many scrap recycling facilities handle hundreds of transactions each day, often made up of combined materials of significant weight and volume.

A scrap processor is the first link in a large manufacturing chain providing raw material (scrap) to other manufacturers for the creation of a finished product. This chain begins and ends with the scrap processor. The business of scrap processing encourages recycling, responsible environmental management, and a reduction of material destined to our communities’ overburdened landfills. A scrap processor has invested thousands, if not millions, of dollars in equipment that specialize in sorting, shredding, shearing and chopping scrap material all in an effort to prepare the material for sale to a manufacturer. A pawn broker does not have this intensive capital investment in equipment and can operate out of a storefront.

Why not ‘tag and hold’ for some period?

Tag and hold is a procedure that can work well for the pawn broker industry, but creates significant problems in the recycling industry. Tag and hold is a part of the basic business model for the pawn industry as a pawn begins as a collateralized loan. Items are only sold after the collateral is surrendered.

Scrap processors take unneeded materials, then convert and package them as specification-grade commodity materials. Almost by definition, commodities are subject to price fluctuation. Restricting the ability to sell materials on demand can unintentionally impose a substantial financial penalty on the processor and could disrupt the need for feedstock material for other manufacturers in the community or elsewhere.

Tag and hold is also not practical for most processors because of the sheer volume of materials that move in a yard each day. The ability to comply would be dictated by the size of the scrap facility. Segregating materials that come in each day into piles would require enormous amounts of land that are simply not found in most scrap recycling facilities.

Should scrap recyclers be required to report all transactions to police?

Laws that require scrap processors to notify law enforcement officials of every transaction that they make have not proven to be an effective means of tracking stolen materials. Such notifications would overwhelm and overburden the law enforcement agency tasked to keep track of the notifications. In many cases, maintaining the records that would be generated by this requirement would force the law enforcement agency either to incur significant overtime from law enforcement personnel or to hire additional staff. Either way, it would impose significant costs on the municipality.

In addition, these notification requirements cause the scrap processor to become, in effect, an adjunct to the law enforcement agency. Scrap processors are private citizens and as such, do not have a law enforcement background. As private citizens, they should not be required to do investigations on material a law enforcement agency has not notified them about. If informed by law enforcement of stolen material, scrap processors will voluntarily notify the appropriate law enforcement agency if they believe they may have seen the material. Lastly, ISRI’s national headquarters sends out ISRI Theft Alerts by email on a regular basis to scrap processors in the areas surrounding where the material was stolen. ISRI Theft Alerts have been successful in recovering stolen material in the past.

Should scrap recyclers be required to acquire fingerprints from peddlers?

A few jurisdictions have proposed fingerprinting sellers of material to scrap yards. This is very intrusive, violates the privacy of legitimate business people, and can drive recycling businesses to other jurisdictions. It is also impractical, as obtaining good prints can be difficult and time-consuming. It is expensive to search criminal databases for matches, and fingerprints will very rarely add significantly to a prosecution based on photo identification or other evidence.

• A&A Midwest is a member of ISRI