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Published: Friday, 1/3/2014

Ohio targets scrap metal thefts by tracking sales


DAYTON, Ohio — Ohio has begun testing a scrap metal sales database in its effort to curb widespread metal thefts.

The Dayton Daily News reports that the Ohio Department of Public Safety is working with selected dealers to input sales information that could help identify and track thieves.

With Ohio leading the nation in metal theft claims in one insurance industry ranking, the state took action in 2012 to require scrap metal dealers to register, and then for the state Public Safety Department to create a database along with a “do not buy” list of suspect sellers.

Authorities want to reduce the anonymity for illicit metal sales and reduce the number of places where thieves can get quick cash for stolen metal.

“When you have some place to go and sell them — that’s what the law is targeting,” State Highway Patrol Staff Lt. Anne Ralston said. “We want to limit the number of places where people can sell and where they can go.”

The Daily News reports that Ohio safety officials say they are on schedule to have the database operating on a wide scale this summer. An earlier transaction reporting effort relied on paper copies that were hard to keep up with, said J. Jeffrey McNealey, a Columbus attorney who represents the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. in Ohio.

McNealey said the goal is a workable system to help control the problem.

“You can’t stop it; you can’t put a cop at every downspout,” he said. “So you have to try to channel this flow through a limited number of data collection points, and from that course of action, you figure out (a suspect) is a person of interest and start figuring it out.”

Dealers pay a first-time registration fee of $250 and an annual $150 to support the reporting database.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau reported that Ohio had 3,228 metal theft insurance claims in 2010-12, the highest number in the nation.

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