SALINAS, Calif.- In the last two years, Central Coast News has told you story after story about thieves ripping off any type of metal they can get their hands on. Last year, it was a rash of catalytic converters stolen in Santa Cruz. In July, Seaside Police busted burglars stealing a lot of gold and selling it to pawn shops. Now ag companies are losing thousands of dollars from thieves stealing copper wiring and aluminum from their equipment.
Now local law enforcement is getting a leg up in trying to keep track of where these stolen items are going, often to recycle and pawn shops. The Center for Investigative Action went to work and took a closer look at the crime-fighting tool and whether or not it will work.
Within the next year, metal recyclers and pawn brokers will be forced to move all their records from paper to the computer in an internal database. State legislators hope the new bill signed into law on Tuesday will reduce the number of property theft incidents across the state. The Monterey County Farm Bureau said it sounds like a good move.
"One issue that we had when they strengthened the recycling requirements was that law enforcement couldn't deal with a lot of paper," said Monterey County Assistant Ag Commissioner Bob Roach.
The state Department of Justice will operate it and local police departments will be in charge of holding businesses accountable. Local law enforcement we spoke with said it will still be hard to track down and crackdown on thieves.
Local recyclers like A & S Metals said it's just more regulation. Over the next few months, they'll start paying about $300 twice a year for the database. A & S Metals said they're already "fee'd" to death. But the farm bureau thinks it'll keep thieves from nabbing valuable equipment.
"Recently someone stole some cross pieces for grape vine trellises and it was over $25,000 to replace that equipment but they only got a few pennies on the dollar by recycling those," Roach said.
The database will give businesses that get metals a place to enter what they get in. Then police will cross check that with thefts that have been reported in the area. The problem is businesses said it's expensive to have the database and police said they don't have the resources to enforce it.
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