What not to do if an undercover cop visits your yard

Sep 16, 2008 | 05:44 AM |

The issue of stolen property has become a major headache for the recycling industry, with scrap prices high in a period of economic stress. Beyond public image, there are potential adversaries who can play hardball.

When Metal Management of Mississippi Inc., a local division of Sims Metal Management Inc., filed a federal lawsuit against a new tag-and-hold law in Mississippi, the court clerk received "interested party" notifications from BellSouth Telecommunications Inc., Mississippi Power Co. and the Mississippi Malt Beverage Association. Groups like those influence legislatures and want to make life tough for whoever steals their wire and kegs. Before long, a builders' group probably will show up to join those "interested parties."

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) has posted a lengthy list of items that yards should avoid buying from unauthorized parties—objects typically belonging to public utilities, municipalities, railroads or cemeteries.

Making the warnings stick can be difficult. Some intriguing narratives emerged from a seven-month undercover investigation in Eau Claire County, Wis., which led to search warrants at five scrapyards.

Potentially stolen material was seized from three recyclers and a fourth scrapyard had records showing irregular purchases of junked vehicles, but in August the District Attorney's office in Eau Claire County said it had decided not to file formal charges as long as there is no recurrence of the allegedly questionable behavior. A fifth yard emerged unscathed from the raids but had accepted suspicious material earlier on, according to a police affidavit.....





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