To the Editor:
I am writing this letter in reference to your June 21 article "Recycler denies not meeting requirements after theft link" (AMM, June 21). Eugene Edelman, general manager of JB Metals, acknowledged having inadvertently purchased stolen items, and his comment "We got crucified in the media" is unsettling. I would like to offer a different perspective.
While the story did not give all the details involved in this situation, it appears that the person (or persons) selling the stolen items were required to provide identification and their license plate numbers were also recorded. According to your story, when it became known that the items in question had been stolen, JB Metals cooperated with the police investigation and provided them with the crucial information to identify the alleged thieves and prosecute them. JB Metals provided a public service and, instead of being "crucified," should have received an award, in my opinion.
There are certain items appearing in scrapyards that one would have to assume are stolenfor example, manhole covers with the citys name on them, bronze grave markers and vases, etc. In those cases, questioning the person trying to sell the material and following up with local officials is probably a good idea. I have been visiting scrapyards for the past 25 years and I am amazed by what people bring in, especially when the jobless rate across the country is so high. Some offices in these scrapyards look like museums with the pieces that have shown up over the years. The "statues" in this case may not have raised any suspicion.
I was employed by Reynolds Metals Co.s Bellwood Reclamation facility for over 20 years, part of that time as a metal buyer. We were the victim of scrap theft several times during those years and we had good relationships with all the scrapyards in the area. We asked them to always purchase any material they suspected could have been stolen from us, get ID and any other information on the person that delivered the metal, then call us to let us know. We, in turn, promised to reimburse them for any of the cost they paid to purchase the material. In most cases, we were able to identify the culprit and prosecute them. Without the service the scrapyards provided, we would have just been a "victim."
When material comes into a scrapyard and there is some question as to whether or not it is stolen, I believe the best practice is to buy it, get identification on the person selling it and vehicle identification, including license number, then wait a bit to see if there are any reports. I doubt if the police would appreciate being called to scrapyards every time something that could have been stolen shows up to verify it is OK. There is also the possibility that a thief will leave if questioned excessively about the items he is trying to sell, resulting in a lost opportunity to catch and convict him. And, because we live in such a litigious society, one has to be very careful about "accusing" anyone of stealing something unless there is a certainty of that fact.
My perspective is that JB Metals and its employees did everything within reason in this situation, and because of their policies, practices and procedures, the police have the information necessary to arrest the offender. As in a lot of cases, the "media" attacked the wrong target.
Metalico Aluminum Recovery Inc.