Growing scrap thefts: could a change in Ohio law make a difference?

CLEVELAND - According to statistics provided by the Cuyahoga Environmental Crimes Task Force, Ohio led the nation in 2014, 2015 and 2016 when it comes to scrap metal theft.

Task force leader Sgt. Andy Ezzo, with the Cleveland Police Department, believes critical changes in Ohio law would go a long way in slowing down the growing problem.

Ezzo said his task force is trying to make a difference, handling 40 cases and making dozens of arrests so far in 2018.

But Ezzo said more must be done to hold repeat scrap theft offenders accountable and make the sale of commonly stolen items, more difficult to sell when they are brought to local scrap yards.

Scrapyard thieves, who are now causing house explosions across the state, like the blast that killed one, and injured another in East Cleveland in June.  

"I think it's the responsibility of the State of Ohio because they're the ones who took it upon themselves to change the law," Ezzo said.

"If you bring your hot water tank to the scrap yard, I want to see your license, and that's where it came from."

Ezzo said if scrap sellers were paid by check instead of cash, it would slow down scrap theft.

Ezzo would also like to see as more commonly stolen items added to Ohio's special purchase list, items like metal siding, copper piping and wire. 

Items on the special purchase list would require the seller to provide identification to the scrap yard, that the items came from their home, or prove the seller is a licensed contractor working at the home. 

Ezzo said he is also trying to urge Ohio lawmakers to set-up a statewide committee, made up of scrap yard owners, law enforcement, and lawmakers.

Bianca Immormino, who is co-owner of JBI Scrap Processors in Cleveland, agrees a statewide committee would be a good idea in trying to shore-up loopholes in Ohio law.

Her business has been victimized by scrap metal thieves several times over the past year.

"I felt very violated, but because it happens almost every single night, it's something that you've gotten used to, which is kind of sad," Immormino said.

"I agree with the committee meetings.  I think it should be annual, if not bi-annually because there is always something coming up about, should we buy this, should we not buy this."

Ezzo is hoping state lawmakers will bring up changes late this year, or in early 2019.

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