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Scrap metal theft epidemic leads to legal crackdown

Scrap metal theft has been a significant problem in Michigan in recent years. In fact, Detroit administrators are calling the issue a million-dollar problem, with vandals and illegal scrappers targeting HVAC systems on public school buildings and other critical systems. Now, a new theft law designed to prevent scrap metal theft has been approved in the state House, with the Senate almost certain to follow.

The new provisions require those selling scrap metal to follow specific rules. Sellers must provide an established address, for example, if they are selling items valued at more than $25; in the past, a post office box was acceptable. Further, a database will be established to track people who sell materials to scrap yards.

The measure comes after scrap metal theft has reached epidemic proportions throughout Michigan. Lawmakers said they had to get tough, or the theft crimes would continue. Detroit's mayor, Mike Duggan, made his position on the issue crystal clear in early March, after issuing a scathing statement in his State of the City speech.

Copper is one of the most coveted materials throughout the state. It can be found in utility transformers, railroad tracks and other utility systems. Farm equipment and other safety materials -- such as railroad crossing sign weights -- are being stolen in rural areas, as well.

Opponents of the measure say that those who choose to take large amounts of metal may still be able to bypass the rules. The $25 cap may simply cause defendants to sell smaller quantities at a variety of scrap yards. It is not yet clear whether the law will have such unintended consequences.

Defendants who are accused of scrap metal theft crimes may be subject to more stringent regulations. These changes can be explained by a Michigan criminal defense attorney. A professional lawyer may provide additional information and assistance for those concerned about a theft charge conviction.

Source: Detroit Free Press, "Crackdown on scrap metal theft passes Michigan House, Senate OK expected" Kathleen Gray, Mar. 19, 2014

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