Mass Scrap Metal Dealers Worry Legislation Could Cripple Business

Right now there are no laws in Rhode Island or Massachusetts that regulate the scrap metal business. Which makes it easy for thieves to cash in on stolen metals, and with no way of tracking them, there's no way to stop them.

Copper is down from major highs last year, but at nearly 3.50 a pound, the metal is still valuable, and thieves have taken notice.

Massachusetts is closer than Rhode Island in regulating the buying and selling of scrap metal. While these bills would help cut down on crime, it could cripple legitimate businesses. 

Adam Gautreau was picked up today in Attleboro carrying 70 pounds of stolen copper in a duffel bag. Gautreau is a criminal looking to make a quick buck.

“If someone can make three or four hundred dollars in an hours work that sounds appetizing to them,” said Detective Arthur Brillon of the Attleboro Police Department.

Brillon says copper thefts are on the rise and catching the crooks isn't that easy.

“It could be weeks before the crime is discovered,” says Brillon.

That's because the thieves often target foreclosed and vacant homes.  It's exactly what happened at Steve Haskell's house that's under renovation.

Haskell said, “people just pretty much came in and just pretty much broke in and cut all the pipes in the basement.”

Haskell says hundreds of dollars of copper was taken from the home before they even bought it. It had been vacant for years.

The thieves take the stolen copper and cash in at scrap metal yards. Scrap companies don't have to report suspicious sellers or even keep a record of materials they purchase. But pending legislation in Massachusetts could change that.

Colin Kelly of State Line Scrap Company says one piece of legislation would help level the playing field for scrap businesses.

 Kelly says, “you have to get their drivers license number, you record it, you make a description of the material that was brought in.”

Kelly says they already do that. He's worried about another piece of legislation in the Senate, that would force scrap businesses to tag and hold their materials for 10 days, giving police time to track stolen metals.
But Kelly says they don't have the land to hold material for that long, and with the cost of metals constantly changing, their business would lose out on profit.     

 “There would be no reason to buy scrap in Massachusetts anymore when they can go right over to Rhode Island where the tag and hold is not there and they could get paid for their scrap in a matter of minutes,” explained Kelly.
According to the Rhode Island Attorney Generals Office, there is no pending legislation that relates to regulating the scrap metal business.