I am profoundly disappointed that the Michigan Senate stripped the most important provisions in the scrap metal theft reform bill, House Bill 4593. After years of work with my Republican colleagues, we have a bill that would have made a huge positive impact in the fight to the stop scrap metal theft that is destroying our neighborhoods and communities. HB 4593 included a three-day payment delay for the three most stolen items - catalytic converters, copper wire, and air conditioner units. This was a huge step forward, but the Senate version removes this waiting period if the scrap metal industry develops a database of scrap metal purchases from sellers in consultation with the Michigan State Police.
Removing the three day payment delay, the civil liability language, and the requirement to keep a license plate number for anyone who drives into a business and initiates a scrap metal transaction waters down the bill and removes the provisions that would actually help prevent scrap metal theft by making it hard for thieves to sell their stolen goods. Scrap metal thieves steal because they can sell and get quick cash. Fifteen states have moved toward prohibiting cash exchanges for some or all items and have seen scrap metal theft reduced. This instantly reduces the attraction to the crime, helps prosecutors obtain a signed check or money order (traceable instrument) as evidence, and gives police three days to catch the criminal before he or she disappears. It would instantly sway criminals away from stealing those items. The removal of this provision substantially weakens the bill.
Instead, they are proposing to allow the industry to create and maintain its own database to track its customers and thefts. I remain skeptical that a database will have any effect on deterring scrap metal theft. Let’s be honest: A database is only as useful as the data it contains, and this bill does not require much of this database. Just listing names and descriptions of the metal that is sold is not going to prevent criminals from ransacking abandoned homes and tearing apart playground equipment in order to make quick, easy money. A requirement to come back in 3 days to sign a check would have instantly helped stop the theft.
At the very least, we should restore the bill to its original intent to stop scrap theft in Michigan, House Bill 4593 should:
Instead, we have a toothless bill that allows people to legally barter for scrap metal. It also removes the requirement to take down a license plate number of the seller which means sellers can still push their scrap to sell into a business in a shopping cart - a clear indication that the scrap metal has most likely been stolen.
We shouldn’t miss this chance to pass, with bipartisan support, game-changing anti-scrap metal theft legislation. But my fight isn’t over. I will keep working to improve this bill and pass a tough law that will actually deter scrap metal theft so that we can again have safe, vibrant communities where we can live, work and raise our families.
State Representative Rashida H. Tlaib
6th House District