“We have members who are dependent on life-sustaining medical equipment that require electricity to operate,” said Cambridge Springs-based Northwestern Rural Electric Cooperative Marketing Direc-tor Amy Wellington-Fuller. “And while we encourage them to have generators, an interruption of service can potentially jeopardize lives.”

Those members, as well as anyone whose life relies on metal, may be feeling a little safer today. A piece of legislation designed to combating skyrocketing metal thefts was signed by the governor Thursday and will go into force in December.

The measure, which had the unanimous support of Crawford County’s state legislators, requires tracking information to be collected for all sales of scrap metal in excess of $100. In addition, it establishes a list of items scrap yards may accept only from commercial enterprises.

Theft of metal ranging from aluminum to copper and everything in between has skyrocketed over the past several years as brisk demand has pushed prices up. The faltering economy is expected to make the problem worse.

“We know that these are hard times for a lot of people, and some have become desperate with the economy the way it is,” said Amy Wellington-Fuller. “The high cost of copper has electric cooperatives and for-profit companies across the nation experiencing metal thefts at an alarming rate.”

Crawford County and electricity utilities are not alone. In Philadelphia, thieves have stolen thousands of manhole covers and storm sewer grates. And across the state, railroad officials have reported criminals have pried out metal spikes that hold down rails.

Incidents like these inspired a push for legislation.

Crawford County’s state legislators were concerned that the proposal not impose unwieldy regulations while still requiring enough information be collected so that lawbreakers could easily be caught if not thwarted. They expressed confidence that the measure that passed met this test.

Regulation and standards are necessary because while some scrap yards do a good job of working with law enforcement, others have allowed people “to bring in truckloads of stuff” with a “no-questions-asked policy,” said Republican state Rep. Brad Roae, whose Sixth District includes Meadville, Titusville and most of eastern Crawford County.

Not everyone is convinced the law will be much help here, however, including Al Cronin, who runs a salvage business in Vernon Township.

Cronin has been victimized multiple times by thieves. Despite having to provide extra paperwork when he takes truckloads of metal in for recycling, he said he supports the new law because he’s fed up with crooks who have become so brazen that they’ve returned to his property two nights in a row.

However, he seriously doubts the law will have a big impact because people can just take scrap metal to another state, such as Ohio, for resale.

Norm Eaton, president of Meadville Metal, said he’s aware that some scrap yards in Tennessee have seen a reduction in traffic due to a similar law, but he said he’s “ahead of the game.”

“We receive material in, weigh it and print a check to the seller,” Eaton said. “Through this transaction, we already collect almost all of the documentation.”



WHAT THE NEW LAW WILL DO

Purchases from individuals in excess of $100 will require scrap processors and recycling facilities to document:

Photocopy of seller’s driver’s license

Seller’s and buyer’s signature for each transaction

License plate number of the motor vehicle the seller operates at the time of the transaction.

Written permission of the seller’s parent or guardian if the seller is under 18 years of age

Date and time of the transaction

Description of the scrap material, including the weight and the amount paid to the seller

* Additional information is required for sales by commercial enterprises

Only commercial enterprises will be eligible to sell the following to scrap processors and recycling facilities:

New production scrap or new materials that are a part of a manufacturing process

Full-sized, new materials such as those used in new construction or equipment and tools used by contractors

Quantities of metallic wire that exceed $100 in which the insulation has been burned in whole or in part

Beer kegs

Detached catalytic converters

Street light poles and fixtures, street signs, historical markers and metal property clearly marked by utility companies or other commercial enterprises

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