Cincinnati city council targets scrap metal thieves

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The Public Safety Committee of Cincinnati City Council met Tuesday to discuss a proposed ordinance aimed at hindering and ultimately eliminating the sale of stolen scrap metal in the community.

Scrap metal includes everyday items ranging from pipes, hubcaps, metal bumpers and the recycling of appliances such as microwave ovens and air conditioners. These are then sold per piece or in bulk to a junkyard or processing center.

Over the past few years, the city and community have dealt with the negative consequences often associated with the sale of scrap metal. Citizens and organizations throughout the city have seen everything from air conditioners, plumbing pipes and catalytic converters stolen from private properties. However, the ordinance was met with resistance from the scrap metal industry.

The ordinance proposed would require those interested in selling scrap metal in Cincinnati to submit to a background check and pay for a license.

"For them (sellers of scrap metal) to have to have a license to do business with us, this will put us out of business overnight," said Earl Weber of Garden Street Iron & Metal on Spring Grove Avenue.

The scrap metal industry claims the requirement will push sellers away from the city and ultimately reduce profits and jobs.

"Thieves won't bother to take out a license," said Jeff McNealy an attorney representing five Cincinnati scrap metal companies. "They'll go someplace else."

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls did not agree with these sentiments. Qualls questioned the argument that requirement of a license would shut businesses down said, "It is a small portion of your business. So I think you ought to urge yourself and your clients to restrain themselves before they make allegations of being put out of business."

All members of the committee agreed that an ordinance was needed to combat the ongoing problem, but council member P.G. Sittenfeld raised concerns whether the police department was capable of properly enforcing past ordinances let alone a new one.

"There seems to be an implication that there's something the police department is not doing, and if we were doing it, you wouldn't need this ordinance," said Lieutenant Col.Richard Janke of Cincinnati Police in response to the concern. "I can tell you that is not accurate."

After two hours of debate, it was clear the council agreed that action is needed, but it is unclear of how to move forward.

"I think everyone agrees this is a major problem. I accept that," said council member Christopher Smitherman. "The question is – is this the solution?"

The Public Safety committee will meet again in two weeks and in the meanwhile will continue to discuss changes to the ordinance and meet with representatives of the scrap metal industry.

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