Indiana is enlisting the help of scrapyards to crack down on brazen metal thieves who've even darkened stretches of highways by stripping wiring from roadside lighting.
A measure passed by state lawmakers that took effect in July targets scrap vehicles, catalytic converters and air conditioner evaporator coils being brought to scrapyards in exchange for cash.
State Rep. Justin Moed, D-Indianapolis, said he filed the bill after hearing of growing numbers of thefts of catalytic converters and air conditioner units in his Indianapolis district, where there are more than 10 scrapyards.
"We looked at how do we increase some of the proof required for people who bring in these items, to make sure they came about them lawfully," Moed told The Times of Munster.
His measure requires someone who disposes of a vehicle for scrap metal to provide proper documentation and makes not doing so a misdemeanor. It also requires documentation for sales and purchases of air conditioning parts or a catalytic converter.
Police agencies across the nation have seen increased thefts of metals such as copper, bronze, brass and aluminum, according to a report by the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
Indiana State Police and county highway departments earlier this month launched an effort to stem growing incidences of thefts of wiring from highway lighting. Swaths of highway, including portions of northern Indiana's Borman Expressway/Interstate 65 interchange, have been darkened by such thefts.
Among the scrapyards keeping watch for metal thieves is Metro Recycling in the northwestern Indiana community of Griffith. Employees there monitor scrap metal deliveries nonstop on more than a half dozen computer screens, while still cameras capture photos of every load of scrap weighed.
Metro Recycling CEO Neil Samahon said the technology is part of the company's effort to purge stolen scrap metal from its work stream and help law enforcement track such thefts.
"We're always looking for ways to control it," Samahon told the newspaper. "We want to be part of the solution."
He said Metro Recycling and other reputable scrap metal businesses want help police curb the problem. His company is registered with ScrapTheftAlert.com, a tool for law enforcement to alert the scrap industry of significant thefts of materials in the U.S. and Canada.
Alerts are broadcast to all subscribers within a 100-mile radius of where the incident occurred.