Michigan Makes Illegal Scrap Metal Transactions a Felony

Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm has signed legislation that will help stop illegal sales and purchases of copper and other stolen metals. Global economic growth has resulted in frequent and significant increases in the price of commodities such as copper, zinc, and nickel, making this type of scrap metal very valuable.

"The larceny of copper and other metals has become a serious problem," Granholm said. "As we continue our efforts to strengthen and rebuild our communities, we must put an end to this destructive criminal activity."

Under the new law, a person who knowingly buys or sells stolen scrap metal will be subject to felony penalties, including imprisonment for up to five years or a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

The theft of copper and other metals has become a serious problem in many Michigan communities. Vandals have targeted abandoned dwellings, construction sites, junk yards, and utility property by stripping copper wiring and plumbing, ripping out utility wire, and stealing manhole covers. The stolen metals are then sold to a scrap metal dealer.

The new law will strengthen regulation and oversight of scrap metal dealers and sales. Dealers will be required to maintain records of purchases and tag and hold most purchased nonferrous metal for seven calendar days. In order to sell scrap metal, sellers will be required to:

  • present a driver's license or state ID card;
  • allow the buyer to take a thumbprint;
  • sign a statement indicating that they are the owner of or are authorized to sell the metal;
  • sign a statement that they have not been convicted of metal theft

"It is our hope that the penalties included in the new nonferrous metal regulatory act will serve as a deterrent to this criminal behavior, but vigilant citizens remain our best ally," said Col. Peter C. Munoz, director of the Michigan State Police. "Most metal thefts occur at night, but some thieves are so brazen they strike during the day. Anyone who suspects suspicious activity is encouraged to report it to their local police department immediately."

The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), which oversees utilities, has issued a consumer alert on copper theft and the important role the public plays in reporting the crime.

The new laws take effect April 1.

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