What is metals theft and why has it become such a big issue in this country?

Metals theft has become an overwhelming problem for communities across the United States and for countries around the world. It involves police, community businesses, local governments, and scrap dealers.  As prices for a variety of recycled metals go up in price due to growing demand, criminals take advantage of nearly every opportunity available to them to steal these materials.  Thieves look for targets of opportunity and since too often some of these materials are not well-guarded or secured, the opportunity for theft exists.

What are the most commonly stolen metals on the market?

Generally non-ferrous metals such as copper and aluminum are the most commonly stolen metals.  However, theft of ferrous metals, such as iron and steel is also a problem across the country.

Why are metals such sought-after commodities right now?

Increased demand for metals from both domestic and international markets drive up prices.  Strong economic conditions that exist on several continents have led to high demand for these materials.

How can scrap recyclers tell if materials are stolen or legitimate?

It is often difficult to tell the difference between stolen and legitimate materials.  Unfortunately, the reality is that in most cases by the time the metals reach a recycler it has been stripped, crushed, cut into pieces, or otherwise altered in such a way to make it indistinguishable from the legitimate scrap materials purchased by a recycler each day.

What is the ScrapTheftAlert System and how does it work?

ISRI’s is a web-based system that allows local law enforcement agencies and others to report stolen materials to scrap recycling companies to enlist them to be on the lookout for the materials.  When notified of a metals theft, an email is immediately distributed to all relevant contacts within a 100 mile radius giving scrap recyclers notice and contact information should they see the stolen materials. The system is free of charge and has proven to be a very effective tool at catching the criminals and also recovering stolen materials.

What steps should local law enforcement take to prevent and combat metals theft?

Local law enforcement needs to sensitize their personnel to the growing problem of metals theft and train them in the proper identification of materials likely to be stolen so they can be on the watch for these materials during routine investigations.  They also need to encourage likely victims of these thefts to secure and/or guard these materials so they do not pose an easy opportunity for thieves.

Have any states proposed legislation to deal with metals theft?

All 50 states have passed some type of legislation dealing with materials thefts in recent years.