Cincinnati preparing to fight scrap metal thieves

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The City of Cincinnati's Public Safety Committee is considering a proposed ordinance aimed at combating scrap metal theft.

"We've got to do something," council member Cecil Thomas said. "It makes no sense to come home and their air conditioning is gone, or start their car up and their catalytic converter is gone, or go to church and there's no air conditioning units. It makes no sense."

The ordinance would require people selling scrap metal to a Cincinnati scrap metal businesses to first get a background check and then if they pass, vendors would have to buy a permit. According to Thomas, the permits would cost between 100 and 400 dollars.

Scrap yards also would not be able to pay sellers in cash, only with a check. Checks would not be available to the vendors for five days.

"We just want them to act now and get it done, not worry about what other communities are doing," Robert Harlaub urged. "Take the lead and get it done. It has to be done now."

Hartlaub was a victim of copper theft and Tuesday was joined by fellow Carthage community members as he urged council to push through the tighter restrictions to curb the growing problem.

"This is an issue," Captain Dave Bailey of Cincinnati Police said. "It's an incredible issue. I should be worried about violent crime. I should be worried about folks getting hurt and I'm spending a lot of time trying to track down on air conditioners. "

Others are worried through that the regulation would not only keep criminals out of Cincinnati scrap yards, but honest sellers too.

"Most of the people that scrap metal are really good people," argued Joseph Marshall.

Marshall says he is one of those honest vendors, selling scrap to help make ends meet.

"I have school loans upwards of 200 bucks and I have two kids," he said. "So 50 bucks here and there is needed and usually we need a quick solution."

The proposed ordinance, however, would get rid of that instant payoff.

"If I could handle the process in one day I would do it," Marshall said. "But if I had to go way out of my way I would go to Kentucky."

That is just what city scrap metal businesses are concerned about. They say they are hoping to work with police to come up with alternative solution that benefit everyone.

"If they require a license for someone to sell scrap in Cincinnati those people will go outside Cincinnati very quickly," attorney Jeffrey McNealey argued. "It's only a ten minute drive you will have lost the capture, you will have lost the communication system hopefully we can put into place here in town."

McNealy says business owners support wider-reaching legislation that would encompass the region or entire tri-state so that Cincinnati businesses are not singled out.

The committee is expected to vote on the ordinance in two weeks. If it passes it will then be up for full council vote the next day.

While city leaders say they are open to talking with scrap metal business leaders, Thomas says no official meeting has been planned.

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