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Bill would take the cash out of metal scrapping


State Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, says this may be the year that thieves who strip homes, businesses and public places of valuable metals hit roadblocks when they try to sell the materials.

Tlaib has been working for more than three years to enact tougher regulations  for scrap-metal dealers who buy copper wire, aluminum, and other metals. This year she's getting bipartisan support in her efforts.

"We're second in the nation in scrap metal theft," Tlaib says. "That's not a great place to be, especially when we all  have been impacted in some way by illegal scrapping."

Tlaib should know. Thieves twice stole the catalytic converter from her car.

She says the thieves can quickly strip air conditioning and heating units from a building. Metal fences, signs, manhole covers -- almost anything is fair game.

Even cemeteries are targeted, she says.

"We're talking about 60-year-old mausoleum doors stolen from Woodmere Cemetery. They're irreplaceable," Tlaib says.

Some of the thefts can pose a threat to public safety.

"I've seen railroad companies complain about wiring being stolen from the tracks -- wiring that allows them to control the direction of the trains," Tlaib says.

The new rules would require people who sell materials to scrap-metal dealers to wait three days for their money -- and it would come in the form of a check, not cash.

"This will help the instant cash attraction to those items, and give law enforcement increased documentation, and possibly help them get to the yard before the illegal scrapper is able to get the cash and run," Tlaib says.

Dealers and their employees would also be required to undergo training to recognize stolen goods, so that they wouldn't have the excuse to say they weren't aware the materials were illegally obtained, Tlaib says.

"You should know a manhole cover is public property, and you shouldn't have purchased it," she says. "We now can say you attended training, and you need to be held accountable."