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Three new laws seek to curb scrap metal theft in Arizona

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PHOENIX – With a new law requiring scrap metal dealers to register and share information with the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the next step is training dealers and police to make the system work, an industry leader said Wednesday.

“We’re collaborating with law enforcement to develop a training program that hopefully will be the second step in ensuring that the scrap metal laws are complied with by all scrap metal dealers,” said Steve Olgin, principal and executive vice president for Liberty Iron and Metal Holdings LLC of Phoenix.

Olgin and others from the industry and law enforcement briefed members of the state House of Representatives’ Metal Theft Ad Hoc Study Committee on how they are implementing three new laws.

In addition to requiring registration with DPS, one of the laws establishes a website through which law enforcement officers share descriptions of stolen materials for review by scrap metal dealers.

The other laws expand the definition of theft to include ferrous and non-ferrous metals and modify the definition of criminal damage to include tampering with a public utility for its scrap metal.

Nick Simonetta, federal policy consultant for the Arizona Scrap Recyclers Association, said the laws address what has become a nationwide problem.

“This effort has resulted in measures that foster greater ability and opportunity to bring meaningful focus, collaboration and the ability to enforce the law and better impact the rogue dealers and the tracking of these crimes,” he said.

Rep. Tom Forese, R-Gilbert, author of two of the measures and a member of the committee, said many of the laws needed to combat metal theft were already on the books.

“And so what we’re looking to do is give law enforcement the tools they need in order to shut down rogue metal scrap dealer operators,” he said.

Meyer Turken, president and CEO of Turken Industrial Properties Inc., said the new laws make it easier to distinguish legitimate scrap metal dealers.

“It will be much easier for the police to close in on the intruders scrapping the metal,” he said. “Basically, the police now in the precincts will be able to see somebody and will be able to say, ‘Do you have a license?’ and if they don’t they’re in trouble.”

Tim Hampton, a commander with the Phoenix Police Department, said educating officers will be key to establishing strong working relationships with scrap metal dealers. He said the department is developing training videos to share with agencies throughout Arizona and informing its own officers of the new tools available for identifying rogue businesses.

Olgin said that collaboration among the industry and law enforcement could end the black market for scrap metal.

“If there’s effective law enforcement and rogue operators – who would be the entry points for stolen metal – are shut down, there will not be a place where stolen metal can be sold, and therefore thieves will not steal the metal,” he said.