The Right Approach to Legislating Metals Theft

Sep 01, 2015

ISRI has consistently opposed the Metal Theft Prevention Act during the past three sessions of Congress (it has not yet been introduced in the current Congress) because the bill would unfortunately only complicate combating metal theft. What is more, we are not alone in opposing the federal legislation. Several state attorneys general and the National Council of State Legislators have gone on record opposing the federal metal theft legislation. In the past, the industry did support a federal legislative approach that included preemption but since those efforts failed all 50 states have enacted metal theft laws that reflect the needs of their citizens and local law enforcement.

ISRI has worked closely with the state legislatures to help enact strict yet workable laws that take into account the experiences of scrap dealers, law enforcement, and prosecutors. Moreover, ISRI has been able to enact industry best practices into laws such as Do-Not-Buy lists that prohibit the purchase of items such as municipal property (manholes, sewer grates, lampposts, etc.), beer kegs, utility wire, and other valuable items except with proper documentation. We have also been promoting ISRI’s system that enables law enforcement to instantly broadcast information about a theft to scrapyards and law enforcement within a 100 miles radius at no cost. This tool is responsible for successfully recovering and returning stolen items to their rightful owners. Likewise, ISRI recognizes no law is perfect so we are constantly collaborating with our law enforcement partners to improve them – something that simply cannot be done at the federal level given today’s gridlock.

In the end, regardless of how good a law may be, we must have ample enforcement of these laws or the metal thieves will continue to steal with impunity. Instead of a problematic federal metal theft bill that will only complicate the efforts of law enforcement and local prosecutors, we urge all stakeholders to join with us to both improve and enforce existing state laws. We all have a vested interest in getting this right, so let’s work together to stop metal thefts.

Billy Johnson is director of political and public affairs for ISRI.

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