New law designed to thwart scrap metal thefts

A local recycling company helped draft legislation that requires Ohio scrap metal dealers to check an electronic list of previous offenders as part of new rules designed to thwart scrap metal theft.

The new rules require registered scrap metal dealers to log data in a central repository, making it available to law enforcement statewide via the Internet. It will list business transactions, including seller information, photos and vehicles associated with the transactions.

Officials with Cohen Recycling, which has several locations throughout Butler County, worked with State Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, in drafting the new law.

“We’re very excited about (the new rule),” said Adam Dumes, General Manager of Cohen Recycling. “We’ve been on the forefront of trying to stop metal thefts. Cohen prides itself on contributing to the community and operating the correct way in compliance with the law, and we want to be part of the solution, not the problem.”

The state reported 4,144 insurance claims from metal thefts, nearly all from copper thefts, from 2011 through 2013 from homes and businesses, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Ohio’s number of claims was the most in the nation during that time.

The new regulation also “levels the playing field and eliminates the bad apples because there are companies that are not playing by the rules that are contributing to the problem … that’s ultimately hurting our reputation,” Dumes said.

Cohen Recycling also video records transactions at their facilities and requires a valid I.D. with every sale.

“If we suspect something is stolen we do our best to try to get the license plate and then work with law enforcement,” Dumes said.

Lt. Scott Reeve with the Middletown Division of Police also applauded the new law.

“We like it because it’s statewide,” Reeve said. In the past he says there was a local do not buy list, but officers worried “about sellers going to other jurisdictions” to sell stolen goods.

Reeve says scrap metal thefts are not as big of a problem now compared to a couple of years ago. He credits that with tougher rules and fewer vacant properties in Middletown.

“It helps because people aren’t stealing copper pipes from vacant buildings, they’re being torn down by the city,” Reeve said.

Dumes has also seen a drop in scrap metal thefts.

Commodity prices have “gone down significantly in the last year or so, so metal thefts isn’t quite as common,” he said. “And honestly with unemployment rates being down significantly, I think theft in general has gone down.”

Kristian Mitchell, of Seven Mile, was selling an old dryer and furnace Friday at the Cohen Recycling Center on South Verity Parkway in Middletown. He said he supports the new law.

“Pretty good law keeps the people who are honest good and people not stealing catalytic converters and robbing houses away from it,” Mitchell said.

It angers him to hear about scrap metal thieves stealing copper and other metals from properties in his community. “Just wrong, putting people out a thousand dollars to make a quick buck … just get a job,” Mitchell said.

He comes to Cohen Recycling’s South Verity location in Middletown about twice a year, he said.

“Better than throwing it in the dumpster. You get a little cash plus you know it’s getting recycled,” he said.

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