Scrap Metal Thefts

Insurance companies, law enforcement officials and industry watchdogs have called scrap metal theft—including copper, aluminum, nickel, stainless steel and scrap iron—one of the fastest-growing crimes in the United States. State leaders have taken notice, passing a flurry of legislation meant to curb metal theft and help law enforcement find and prosecute criminals. Researchers at The Council of State Governments, in collaboration with the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, set out to determine if all that legislation is having an impact on metal theft rates.

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In response to a problem that the Detroit Free Press says has reached “epidemic proportions” in some communities, Michigan legislators voted in March to give law enforcement more tools to prevent scrap-metal thefts. Three Midwestern states have among the most metal-theft claims in the country, according to a recent National Insurance Crime Bureau analysis. Those states are Ohio (first in the nation), Illinois (seventh) and Michigan (ninth).