RYE, N.Y. – A federal crackdown is being proposed on the theft and resale of metals, such as recent incidents at New York Medical College, Rye Playland, the former United Hospital Center in Port Chester and at a Yonkers storage yard.
A “Metal Theft Prevention Act” that targets scrap metal thieves with a four-point plan was announced by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer Monday afternoon at Playland Parkway in Rye.
The spiking price of iron and copper has prompted thieves to steal scrap metal from Westchester County homes, parks, businesses and universities, said Schumer. In Harrison, he said, two brothers were even caught stealing storm drains and manhole covers to resell for a quick buck at metal yards.
“In the past year, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of metal have been stolen in Westchester County and then they’re sold for scrap metal yards for fast cash,” said Schumer. “Why do the thieves like it? Well, first they like the quick money, and second, there’s no trace of it. As our police in Westchester and the Hudson Valley as well as across the country will tell you, it’s one of the hardest crimes to prosecute because there’s no evidence.”
“Let me just say this about our scrap metal dealers: some of them are very reputable, but many are very not,” Schumer added.
Co-sponsored with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), “Metal Theft Prevention Act” would require documentation stating that those selling metal to recyclers own the metal or are authorized to sell it. Currently, Westchester County does not require identification for those selling scrap metal. Recognizing that ownership documentation may not be available, Schumer said a sworn affidavit would suffice.
Second, the bill would require recyclers to keep detailed records on metal purchases. Third, it would cap the amount recyclers can pay for scrap metal at $100 in cash. After that, Schumer says, recyclers would have to pay by check.
“Right now they convert this into this,” said Schumer, demonstrating with a copper pipe and a hundred dollar bill. “They take this metal, they get the hundred dollars and no questions asked. If it had to be a check, if it had to be something that’s traceable, first metal thieves wouldn’t want it, but most importantly the scrap metal dealers – the small number of them that are crooks – would be put out of business.”
Lastly, the bill would create a specific federal crime of stealing metal from critical infrastructure to try to prevent thieves from simply crossing county or state lines.
The provisions of the bill would be enforced by both the U.S. attorney general and state attorneys general. The penalty for breaking any aspect of the law would be decided by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, although Schumer said perpetrators would be handed felony charges.