ALTON, IL (KTVI)-- A metro east community is trying to scrap metal thieves. The City of Alton, Illinois passed into law tougher penalties to those who try to sell stolen scrap metal. Alton's Police Chief, David Hayes, says a spike in property crimes led them to what he thinks is the root of the problem; scrap metal thefts.
Hayes says in a city study nearly 50% of scrap metal thieves were using drugs and nearly 40% were wanted for other crimes; he says the problem is only one domino in a string of crimes. "Scrap metal that is actually stolen from the property is usually very minute, but the amount of damage left behind to the property owner is much more," Hayes says. " Then it is to take the scrap metal to the center to buy drugs, then commit other crimes while using drugs." Hayes says violent crime is down in Alton, but property crime was up in 2011 because of scrap metal thefts and related crimes.
Chief Hayes says the key to their scrap metal law is it eliminates cash transactions at scrap yards; now people buying scrap get checks or debit cards, Hayes says "obviously drug dealers don't take debit cards or checks."
Hayes says he's talking to colleagues in neighboring communities within 50 miles of Alton trying to encourage their cities to do the same.
There are also two bills currently being debated at the state level. Chief Hayes says they don't eliminate the cash from the transactions. You can follow House Bill 4452's status here. You can also follow Senate Bill 3825's status here.