YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Ohio has one of the highest rates of scrap metal theft in the country, according to The National Insurance Crime Bureau.
New this year, the state implemented a sweeping law targeting metal thieves. But as 27 Investigates discovered, authorities are still working the bugs out of the system.
Any empty building can be the target of metal theft. This year, police in the Valley have taken reports from vacant houses, ice cream shops and churches.
Authorities say they’re constantly trying to play catch-up.
“Thieves would constantly be trying to break in or go out back to the back of these plants and try to steal whatever they could get their hands on that they could melt down,” Campbell Police Chief Drew Rauzan said.
A new online system tracks scrap transactions and tries to prevent thieves from having a place to sell stolen goods.
The new system is basically a simple background check for scrapyards. Police and courts feed their information into a new state database. If you have a conviction for theft, your name goes on this “do not buy” list.
David Goss was convicted of petty theft in 2013. His name should have been on this list, but it was not.
In August, police arrested Goss in Warren. A scrap yard there told police he was selling suspicious amounts of scrap, which turned out to be stolen from another business.
Police said the theft amounted to thousands of dollars.
The bugs are still getting worked out of Ohio’s new system.
Warren Municipal Court will join the new state system by the end of year, closing the loophole that allowed Goss to sell material.
Ohio members of the national Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries worked with the state to develop the new system.
“Legitimate dealers don’t want to put their businesses at risk by accepting stolen material,” Danielle Waterfield with the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries said.
Police can also use the system to let scrap yards know when large amounts of metal are reported stolen.
“Our research shows stolen scrap metal can travel 200 miles. Thieves are very savvy in trying to avoid detection,” Waterfield said.