New Scrap Metal Laws: Bad for Thieves, Worse for Pawn Shops

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There are constant news reports on stolen metals: Bridges disappearing overnight, copper pipes stolen from homes, and large, bronze statues disappearing from the streets. 

Delaware State Police have decided to take a bite out of metals crimes, creating new rules for businesses which cover some of America‘s most stolen metals, including copper, brass, gold, and silver. WBOC suggests that these rules will stop metals thieves from striking: Pawn shops and scrap metal processors that sell metal now have to wait 18 days after purchasing the metal to sell it to a new customer. This gives police the opportunity to investigate when a potential victim claims property was stolen.

In addition, some of these shops will need to register with police for a sales license, as well as keep track of all sales to the store. While securing a sales license and collecting information about sales shouldn’t harm businesses, some business owners worry that the 18-day wait before selling to new customers will hurt their own operations, especially considering the fluctuating prices of metals in the economy.  

In the above-linked article, for example, Teddy Birt, owner of Mid-Atlantic Jewelry & Pawn shop, says the changing market value makes it costly to hold metals for such a sustained period. “Gold can drop every day,” Birt told the reporter. “[Tuesday] gold dropped $25 an ounce, so everything I bought [Monday] that I’m holding for 18 days, I’ve already lost $25 an ounce on it.”

Nevertheless, the recent increase in thefts shows that harsher laws are likely needed to deter theft. The new Delaware laws should certainly help victims recover their property, but will they help nab the actual thieves? Rather than hurting thieves, who likely wouldn’t share their proper identification to a pawn shop, it seems that these shops will be hurt the worst. What’s the best way, we wonder, to truly catch a thief?

–Amy Edwards

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