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Is Scrap Metal Theft Legislation Working for States?

July 10, 2014

Is Scrap Metal Theft Legislation Working for States?
Source: Council of State Governments

Insurance companies, law enforcement officials and industry watchdogs have called scrap metal theft—including copper, aluminum, nickel, stainless steel and scrap iron—one of the fastest-growing crimes in the United States. State leaders have taken notice, passing a flurry of legislation meant to curb metal theft and help law enforcement find and prosecute criminals. Researchers at The Council of State Governments, in collaboration with the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, set out to determine if all that legislation is having an impact on metal theft rates.

To determine if state legislation has been effective at curbing metal theft, a thorough analysis is needed that starts with an evaluation of trends in metal theft incident rates at the state level. After an evaluation of the existing research and interviews with state and local officials and law enforcement personnel across all 50 states, CSG researchers concluded that metal theft data for states are not available for analysis.

Because metal theft is such a significant and widespread problem, and because accurately tracking metal theft is key to establishing evidence-based practices designed to both deter theft and to assist in the investigation and prosecution of theft, it is imperative that states evaluate ways to begin collecting these data.

Moving forward, it is unlikely data will be available on a scale necessary to perform meaningful analysis unless a widespread effort is launched to create systems to document, track and report metal theft crime uniformly and consistently. CSG researchers recommend continued discussion regarding the development of a uniform tracking system for metal theft or modifications to current systems.

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