Several Salt Lake area scrap-metal dealers say they, along with other businesses, are being hurt by the increase in local scrap-metal thefts over the past two years.
Jim Bond, from Metro Steel Recycling Inc., said scrap yards - not just the theft victims - are losing money because of such thefts and that they are doing everything possible to help bring an end to the trend.Bond said he was losing between $8,000 and $10,000 a week before one of his own employees was arrested last week for taking scrap metal from his place and selling it to another yard. He also says he is losing thousands of dollars each month because some of the scrap metal he buys turns out to be stolen.
"Once material is identified as being stolen, we have to give it up. And then we are out the money we paid for it," he said.
A manager of another scrap-metal yard said he had to forfeit more than $3,000 worth of copper wire that turned out to be stolen. He said the judge ordered the thief to pay restitution, but after paying only $35 a month for nine months the restitution was terminated.
Salt Lake Police Detective J.D. Buckholts believes there will always be a problem with scrap-metal thefts.
We "are investigating a lot of thefts right now and as long as there is a market for (scrap metal) the thefts will continue," he said.
Buckholts said items made of aluminum, copper and stainless steel are being stolen everyday from businesses of every size. One business has had more than $5,000 in angle and channel aluminum stolen over the past few weeks. Some businesses are being hit in the middle of the day.
"Scrap-metal thefts go hand in hand with the market," said Buckholts. "When the price of metal goes up, so do the thefts."
Currently aluminum is worth between 50 and 70 cents a pound _ double what it was worth three years ago.
Scrap-metal yards must see identification and record the names and addresses of scrap-metal sellers. But that doesn't always help.
"With all the problems with theft recently there has been some talk about stricter regulations in scrap," said Bond. "Because we are losing so much money, we are taking it upon ourselves to become stricter."
In California, scrap-metal dealers are required to take a thumbprint of anyone selling scrap. Buckholts said he favors doing the same in Utah because it would make it easier for police to track down thiefs.
Buckholts said most scrap dealers turn away suspicious items but there is always someone who will buy it. He said the nature of the scrap-metal business makes it difficult to expect dealers to do any more than they are currently required to do.
"People think we're in a dirty-rotten business and we want to change that reputation," said Bond. "We're doing all we can to keep this business clean."