New bills target scrap metal theft

LANSING (AP) – Michigan lawmakers moved Thursday to further restrict sales of stolen copper and other scrap metal, nearly five years after the state first targeted the problem that is damaging city neighborhoods, rural farms, churches and utility companies.

Bills approved by the House would require scrapyards to take photos or videos of scrap metal they buy, a nod to prosecutors who want better record-keeping to help cases against thieves.

Another major provision would make people wait three days for payment after selling copper wire, catalytic converters and air conditioners and parts.

Sellers also could only be paid by check or money order, or they could redeem their money at an onsite ATM that takes photos of them getting the cash.

The legislation would prohibit knowingly selling or buying street lights poles, guardrails, traffic signs, cemetery plaques and railroad equipment unless a seller specifically own the materials.

“The theft is tearing apart our communities,” said Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Detroit Democrat who said she twice has had catalytic converters stolen from her own vehicle.

The bipartisan 98-9 and 99-8 votes came after two years of workgroup meetings and signal legislators may be close to sending the measures to Gov. Rick Snyder, whose administration is credited with helping build consensus in the House. They now go to the Senate, where related legislation is pending.

One of the House bills is sponsored by Rep. Paul Muxlow, a Brown City Republican who said a man stole cable from wind turbines in the area he represents.

“We are simply asking that there be more data collected from sellers so that law enforcement can do their job with some extra tools,” he said. The bills also would free the scrap metal industry of some regulations, Muxlow said.