New Ohio Law Aims To Slow Down Scrap Metal Thefts

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - Police in Ohio are about to get help in trying to crackdown on scrap metal thieves who steal aluminum siding off houses and copper wiring from basements.

Scrap metal sellers will be required to show a photo ID beginning Thursday and must prove that they own items such as guard rails and beer kegs. State lawmakers set the requirements to slow a wave of metal thefts brought on by climbing metal prices.

"We're hoping its going to clean up the industry," said Ted Altfeld, president of Bluestar Metal Recycling in Elyria. "If everybody is playing by the same rules, I feel a lot better."

Thieves no longer are content to steal metal pipes and radiators out of vacant homes. They've swiped railroad tracks in southwest Ohio, an air conditioner unit from atop a police union hall in Toledo and catalytic converters from cars parked in downtown Cincinnati.

A year ago, a northeast Ohio man was electrocuted while trying to steal copper from a power substation.

No one expects that new state law will completely stop the thefts.

But it will give police a place to turn for information; scrap yards will be required to keep a log of who brings in metal to sell. And it will create statewide standards, stopping thieves from taking metal into towns where there are no rules.

Many scrap yards already required a photo ID.

Altfeld said his employees watch closely what people bring and will alert police if they're suspicious.

"We've had a number of people taken away in handcuffs from here," Altfeld said.

How well the law works will depend on whether it is enforced across the state, said Josh Joseph, vice president of Muskingum Iron and Metal in Zanesville.

The problem is that scrap metal is easy to move.

"The criminals that are stealing this are smart enough to know where they get rid of the metal," Joseph said.

Dayton has required scrap yards to keep detailed records about the customers they buy from since 2006. The information has been a tremendous help, said detective Jamie Bullens, who investigates scrap metal crimes.

Scrap dealers work closely with police and let them know when they hear about operators willing to buy stolen items, Bullens said.

The state law is "going to give law enforcement agencies a little bit bigger bite," he said.