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Madison approves regulations to deter scrap metal thieves

Published On: Nov 27 2012 09:58:29 PM CST   Updated On: Nov 28 2012 07:33:06 AM CST

MADISON, Wis. -

The Madison Common Council on Tuesday night approved tougher regulations meant to catch thieves selling stolen scrap metal.

With the price of copper and aluminum sky high, Madison police are reporting a growing number of metal thefts.

Police said thieves target copper wires outside homes, businesses and especially on construction sites. And when it sells for $3 a pound, it can be a way for criminals to make some easy money, police said.

About 100 people and tons of material come through All Metals Recycling in Madison every day, and not everyone is a reputable seller.

Manager Corey Gilbertson already keeps records of his customers.

"If I could tell by the look on someone's face whether they're a criminal, I'd hope I'd be making a lot more money," Gilbertson said.

Because of the regulations approved by the Madison Common Council, Gilbertson will have to send his customer records to the city of Madison at the end of the business day.

"Right now, it's virtually impossible to track down metal thieves," said Alderman Mike Verveer, who sponsored the new regulations.

Verveer said few people ever get their stolen items back because they get crushed and sold so quickly.

Last year, the city started putting the same reporting requirements in place for pawn shops.

"It has resulted in numerous victims getting their property recovered as well as numerous prosecutions," Verveer said.

Although they're not protesting at the council, Gilbertson said he and others are concerned that legitimate customers won't want their information shared with police so they'll do their business somewhere else.

"You can just go right out of town and do business with a place that doesn't have to write that report," Gilbertson said.

Madison is first in the state to approve these regulations for scrap metal.

Verveer said all of the customer records -- from the photos of a person's face to his or her transaction -- will be kept between police and the scrap yards.

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