Soon, metal thieves may be finding themselves behind bars.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., spoke Tuesday about his plans to crack down on thieves who steal scrap metal. He spoke at 69 Wescott St. in Jamestown, an unoccupied home and the recent site of metal theft. Joining him at the site were Mayor Sam Teresi; Harry Snellings, Jamestown police chief; Steve Centi, director of development; and Gregory Moran and William Jones, city rehab and code enforcement officers.
"We have a real problem throughout New York state, but it has a particular resonance here in Jamestown," Schumer said. "That is metal theft. The price of copper, steel and most other metals has gone through the roof. As a result, there are crooks."
Metal thefts, Schumer said, cause a great deal of damage to properties. Tuesday, Schumer introduced legislation cosponsored with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., which, if passed, would create many changes.
Schumer's Metal Theft Prevention Act is aimed at deterring thieves from procuring and selling stolen metal goods. It would make stealing metal from critical infrastructure a federal crime.
The proposal has four parts. The first would require documentation that those selling metal to recyclers own the metal, or are authorized to sell it. Second, it would require recyclers to keep detailed records for purchase of metals. Third would cap the amount at $100 in cash that recyclers would be able to pay for scrap metal. Finally, it would create a specific federal crime of stealing metal.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer speaks about his proposed Metal Theft Prevention Act on Tuesday, in front of 69 Wescott St., which was the site of a recent metal theft.
P-J photo by Liz Skoczylas
"If you come in with a manhole cover, they're going to ask for your name, your driver's license, where you got it," Schumer said. "Anything more than $100, they've got to write out a check... Once you get a check, everything can be traced. Thieves don't like checks, they like to deal in cash."
Creating a federal law will result in what Schumer said will be very serious penalties. There will be penalties, including jail, for thieves. Additionally, scrap metal dealers who choose to not abide by the proposed laws, would also find themselves in trouble.
"This practical proposal is going to mean one thing," Schumer said. "It's going to mean that the only metal these thieves will get their hands on will be the steel bars of the jail door that is slammed and locked behind them."
If passed, the legislation would have local and federal law enforcement working together to ensure each of the four parts were being followed.
"We've coordinated with federal and local law enforcement," Schumer said. "We expect to get good, strong, bipartisan support. Washington's one big mess on the big issues. But, on issues like this, you often get a lot of bipartisanship."