federal penalties are needed to really make a difference in the
fight against copper theft, those involved in tracking and
investigating metals losses said.
Federal legislation targeting
copper theft exists, but it differs between states. A harsher
federal penalty would act as a deterrent to criminals and make
prosecution more attractive to law enforcers, attendees of the
American Copper Councils meeting in Washington were told
"If there are real penalties, it
sends a message back to the street that copper theft isnt
as easy as it used to be," according to William "Billy"
Johnson, director of political and public affairs at the
Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), Washington.
Copper theft has targeted mostly
cathode and wire, and left companies seeking new ways to
prevent losses, which averaged around $188,000 per shipment in
2012, CargoNet vice president of operations Keith Lewis
Jersey City, N.J.-based CargoNet
aims to prevent cargo theft and increase recovery rates through
secure and controlled information sharing among theft victims,
their business partners, law enforcement and the National
Insurance Crime Bureau, according to its website.
But even when thieves are
caught, getting case traction with prosecutors can be tricky,
"Crimes against the person take
a higher priority against crimes against property, and the FBI
views cargo theft as being a violent crime. But that was in the
old days, when cargo theft often happened as hijackings," he
said. "Now that isnt usually the case, so it just
isnt deemed a priority."
With copper theft competing
against high-end crime for prosecution, industry participants
have to ensure they do everything possible to prevent thefts,
conference attendees were told.
"You need to do everything you
can do that doesnt require a (law enforcement) badge,"
Scott Cornell, national manager of Travellers Investigative
Services specialty investigations group, said. "You
shouldnt be putting the load completely on the police; if
they have a crime against a person on the desk, it helps to
have done the work."
This means developing good
working links with local police ahead of turning to the law for
The industry needs to "dig its
well before it is thirsty" by establishing links with law
enforcement in advance, Lewis said.
"The reality is that weve
got the onus on our own shoulders, as an
industryweve got to work together as an industry to
help ourselves," he said. "You need someone to activate the
troops and get things done for you, and that requires a
connection with law enforcement."
ISRI has worked for years to
stamp out metals theft, with more than two-thirds of recyclers
reporting being a victim of metals theft in the past year. It
has developed www.scraptheftalert.com, an online
theft-reporting system designed to help recover stolen
material, secure arrests and facilitate prosecution.
Other methods, like GPS
tracking, security measures and theft-deterrent devices are
also being employed.
Baltimore-based logistics firm
Cowan Systems LLC, which moves some 12,000 loads of copper per
year, turns drivers down daily for failing to meet the
necessary standards, according to Chris Cott, the
companys metals movement specialist.
This has led criminals to get
smarter in the way they steal, including the use of cyber
theftstealing identifications of legitimate truck drivers
and using the false ID to get access to metal.