FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 30, 2012
SCHUMER: WITH SPIKE IN PRICE OF IRON, COPPER, AND OTHER METALS, CROOKS ARE STEALING FROM HOMES, BUSINESSES, RAILROADS, MUNICIPAL BUILDINGS AND EVEN HOSPITALS – LAUNCHES PLAN TO CRACK DOWN ON THEFT FROM CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE THAT ENDANGERS CAPITAL REGION RESIDENTS
As Prices for Scrap Metal Rise, Metal Thieves Are Looting Capital Region Homes, Businesses, Public Infrastructure and Even Hospitals, Then Selling for Fast Cash at Metal Yards; Schumer Plan Would Crackdown on Thieves & Provide Law Enforcement New Tools to Protect Residents, Infrastructure
Schumer Bill Would Require Metal Sellers to Provide Proof of Ownership, Limit Cash Payments from Recyclers for Scrap Metal to $100, Make it a Federal Offense to Steal Metal from Critical Infrastructure & More
Schumer: Time to Put Metal Thieves Behind Ironclad Bars
Today, at the Leo O’Brien Federal Building in Albany, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer joined local law enforcement and fire safety officials, representatives from National Grid and Canadian Pacific Rail, and others to crack down on the recent rash of scrap metal theft in the city that threatens critical infrastructure, local residents, and taxpayers. Due to the high price of iron, copper, and other metal in the market, the Capital Region has recently seen a significant number of scrap metal burglaries and larcenies in the area, including thefts of copper piping from Public Bath No. 2 in South Albany, metal used for lighting protection at Ellis Health Center in Schenectady, and copper cables from a critical railroad bridge in Waterford. Additionally, vacant buildings, businesses and facilities throughout the Capital Region are being stripped for metal, making it more expensive to repair damage and restore power, heating, and electricity. Thieves then sell that metal for fast cash at metal yards.
Schumer’s legislation would, 1) require documentation that those selling metal to recyclers own the metal or are authorized to sell it; 2) require recyclers to keep detailed records for purchases of metal; 3) cap the amount recyclers can pay for scrap metal at $100 in cash; 4) create a specific federal crime of stealing metal from critical infrastructure, and more. He cosponsors this legislation with Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). Schumer will highlight that this can cause serious danger to school children, commuters, first responders and local residents, as these thieves can cause fires when utilizing blow torches to remove metal and can seriously compromise safety of public facilities.
“It is time to put thieves who steal scrap metal from homes, businesses, infrastructure and even churches behind ironclad bars,” said Schumer. “This practical plan will combat this rash of metal theft by requiring recyclers to keep detailed documentation of metal purchases, capping the amount of cash recyclers can pay for scrap metal, ensuring that those selling metal are authorized to do so, and by making metal theft a federal crime. With an increasing number metal thefts over the past few years, particularly in homes that the city is attempting to redevelop, this concerning trend has prompted me to take action and work with the area authorities to make sure the only metal these criminals can get their hands on is in a locked jail cell. This proposal will safeguard Capital Region families, schoolchildren, business owners and first responders who are endangered by the stripped infrastructure, fires, and financial hit as a result of these crimes.”
“I have seen the hazards created from people stealing metals in our community, whether it be ground wires, or pipes in critical buildings or even catalytic converters and rims from cars, and that is why I appreciate Senator Schumer’s efforts to try and stem this very common problem,” said Albany County Sherriff Craig Apple.
"We applaud the Senator for recognizing and taking action to deter metal theft here in New York and across the country. Theft of utility infrastructure can adversely affect the reliability of electric service resulting in surges, fires, and outages. Approximately 50 National Grid substations in upstate New York have been hit by thieves in the past two years, some more than once. National Grid continues to works with law enforcement to deter theft and identify the perpetrators, including projects in closed-circuit television, substation access control and guard services, marking wire with identifying indicators. National Grid has also begun a wire identification and reward program, so if stolen, scrap dealers and recyclers will be alerted by markings on the wire and can report suspected theft," said Keith McAfee, Vice President of Electric Operation for National Grid in New York State.
Schumer’s Metal Theft Prevention Act is aimed at deterring thieves from procuring and selling stolen metal goods. As a baseline measure, it makes stealing metal from critical infrastructure a federal crime. The Act also includes stringent documentation requirements for sellers, and recordkeeping requirements for recyclers who buy scrap metal.
Schumer stood overlooking the abandoned Central Warehouse which caught on fire in 2010 when metal thieves stripped the building with blow torches, and was joined in his push to end the spree of metal thefts by Albany Mayor Gerald Jennings; Albany PD Deputy Chief Brandon Cox; Chief Robert Forezzi Albany Fire Department; Albany County Sherriff Craig Apple; Colonie Police Chief Steve Heider; National Grid Vice President for Maintenance and Construction Keith McAfee, and representatives of Railroads of New York. Schumer noted that the thefts at homes, businesses, railroads, and hospitals are becoming increasingly alarming. The damages to the local economy, the larceny of private property and the fire hazards of metal thefts cause serious threat to residents and taxpayers.
Some of the recent incidents of metal theft in the Capital Region, like the copper cable incident at a Waterford railroad bridge, create longstanding dangers for communities and residents of the Capital Region. After 1,000 feet of signal wire was stolen from the Waterford-Cohoes railroad bridge in July of 2012, railroad communication was cut off for at least 15 minutes. Likewise, the damage incurred from a piping theft at the Public Bath House in Albany, a 107-year-old landmark in the South End of Albany, meant an adjacent soup kitchen was unable to serve hundreds of meals per day for over a week to the community. In late 2010, more than 200,000 lbs. of copper valued at approximately $27,000 was stolen from the Central Warehouse on Montgomery Street that closed that caused a fire, which closed nearby I-787, Amtrak lines, and local businesses for days.
Schumer highlighted another instance in Schenectady, when two men working for the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corp. stole tens of thousands of dollars from metal tree grates and other city infrastructure in the area. Many of the actions by these men were done in the middle of the work day. Metal thefts like these, while not a direct danger to the people of Schenectady, damage the appeal and reputation of the Capital Region city.
Schumer’s plan stipulates that for those who sell scrap metal, the documentation requirement will indicate whether they own and/or are authorized to sell their metal, and only applies to metal products that would likely be owned by government entities or companies, and not private citizens. For recyclers, the recordkeeping requirement would mandate that they keep basic records of all purchases, such as the date of the purchase, a description of the metal, the amount paid, and the name and address of the seller. In addition, the Schumer’s metal theft legislation states that recyclers may not pay over $100 in cash for metal. Above $100, scrap metal sellers will have to be paid by check, money order, or online, aside from established commercial transactions. While some responsible recyclers already employ similar restrictions, all it takes is one or two bad actors in a region to give the thieves enough incentive to steal. The provisions of the bill can be enforced by both the U.S. Attorney General and state attorneys general. The U.S. Sentencing Commission is directed to review and make any necessary changes to ensure that the penalties laid out in the guidelines appropriately reflect the serious nature of metal theft.
Metal theft has become increasingly prevalent in the Capital Region area. Recent events suggest the rate could continue to rise at an alarming pace:
· In August of 2012, 1,000 feet of signal wire was stolen from Canadian Pacific Rail’s Waterford-Cohoes Bridge. This theft resulted in railroad communication being out for at least 15 minutes.
· A South Albany Public Bath house was robbed of all its copper piping, leaving the center without a water system for 10 days in April of 2012. The food pantry next door was unable to operate for several days because the water flowing to the building was funneled through the bathhouse. In order to operate, the pantry had to gain access to the main city water line on Franklin, which cost $8,000.
· In February of this year, two reported incidents occurred at the Albany Medical Center during which the thieves took thousands of dollars’ worth of copper piping and wiring.
· In 2010, it was discovered that two men working for the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corp. stole thousands of dollars in metal from city infrastructure.
· Also in October of 2010, Ellis Health Center in Schenectady was robbed of metal lightning protection. While the issue was detected quickly, the theft left the hospital vulnerable to danger for a short period of time.
· In October of 2010, the Central Warehouse in Albany ignited in flames, burning for days, because thieves attempted to strip metal from the structure. As the thieves removed more than 200,000 lbs. of copper valued at approximately $27,000, caused sparking, resulting in a multiple-alarm fire that took several days to get under control. I-787 was closed, and Amtrak lines that run near the warehouse were forced to be closed due to billowing smoke. Businesses that operate in the area were also closed.
· In September of 2008, a group of thieves looted a Colonie recycling company by stealing over 780 pounds of copper wire.