Scrap Metal Thefts

Last week, News 4 told you about construction sites around the area that have been targeted by thieves. They’re stealing copper and brass, then trying to resell the metals to scrap yards.

Now however, even scrap metal businesses are taking a hit.

Joe Donovan has worked in the scrap metal industry for decades.

But this past year has been the hardest, with more than 12 break-ins and hundreds of pounds in valuable metals stolen from his business. "In one theft, we lost $20,000 dollars. And cumulatively, we know of on paper, over 100 thousand dollars. And because inventory can't be precise in a business like this, I believe it's higher than that."

The thieves are taking red metals like brass and copper because of their climbing value.

Right now, brass is selling for more than a $1.50 per pound and copper is going for as much as $3 dollars a pound, which are values that have quadrupled because of overseas demand.

Some thieves are so eager to get their hands on these metals that they make a living off scamming scrap yards.

"They'd done the same thing each time, sometimes right under our noses,” Donovan said. “One person would distract the employee, keep the employee distracted and make a hand signal behind her back. And when she made that hand signal, that meant it was safe to pick stuff up and she'd pick the stuff up and throw it in the back of her truck right under our noses."

In this case, the thieves then tried to resell it to the business and were busted by surveillance video.

But the difficult part for law enforcement is proving the person committed the crime.

Sgt. Stacy Robinson with the Dothan Police Department said, "Luckily, with some of the precious metals taken, there are factors we can use to track those to a particular job site."

But because of these scams, Joe’s business now locks its red metals in a warehouse, which is monitored by motion sensors, surveillance cameras and alarms.

They also require identification, signatures and validation that the person selling the scrap metal actually owns it.

Attorney General Troy King is advocating a new law that would require all scrap metal businesses to keep detailed sales records.

Those found guilty of stealing these materials will be charged with a felony and could face up to 20-years in prison.

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