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Question of the Month ~ January 2015


Q. What laws do states have in place to regulate the sale of scrap metal?

As the value of copper, steel, scrap iron and other metals has risen over the past several years, so too has the number of cases involving scrap-metal theft. This, in turn, has led legislators in states such as Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio to pass measures that aim to crack down on scrap-metal thieves.
Under Michigan’s HB 4593, for example, scrap-metal sales valued at $25 or more are no longer eligible for instant cash; sellers must instead receive payment in the mail. The bill was signed into law in April 2014. Thieves may still be able to sell scrap metal by going to a number of different dealers, but the process will at least be much more time-consuming. The measure, too, allows larger sales to be traced because the seller must provide identifying information. And purchasers must take photos or video and maintain records, in the event of a later investigation.
Statewide reporting systems can help deter thieves who go from dealer to dealer to sell scrap metal. In Minnesota, dealers must now file a daily report of all transactions using an automated system (HF 1214).
They also post a sign informing “all patrons that transactions are reported to law enforcement daily.” As the result of legislation (SB 193) passed in Ohio in 2012, scrap-metal dealers can no longer accept certain metals such as burned copper wire. This was a response to instances in which thieves would take down the wiring used in communications systems, burn the plastic covering off the copper, and then sell the wire.

Here is a summary of some of the more common state strategies used to help prevent scrap-metal theft.
• Require purchasers to see a valid ID from the seller and to get proof of ownership. The seller may also have to provide fingerprints.
• Limit the size of the cash payment to a seller for some or all scrap metals, cap the number of transactions by a seller, or require a waiting period before a seller receives payment.
• Require scrap-metal dealers and recyclers to maintain records of their purchases and report transactions to an electronic database.
• Require scrap-metal recyclers and dealers to be licensed or registered.
• Increase penalties for scrap-metal theft and establish enhanced penalties for dealers who knowingly accept stolen government property.


Article written by Ilene Grossman, CSG Midwest assistant director. Question of the Month highlights an inquiry received by CSG Midwest through its Information Help Line.