Proposal would strengthen penalties on metal scavengersWritten by Patrick Timmis | | email@example.com
District 4 Councilwoman Paula Hicks-Hudson is working on a proposal to City Council to beef up penalties for scavengers of metal and antiques from local houses.
The proposed legislation could also target junk-collectors who pick up scrap metal from the curbside, a practice Hicks-Hudson said is illegal.
“I think it should be enforced,” she said.
The city has mandated that anyone selling metal or items taken from a historic building present ID, which Toledo Police Chief Mike Navarre said improved but did not solve the issue.
“We still have a problem with people going into houses — not just vacant houses but houses that are for sale — people going in the basement and stripping out the copper,” he said.
Hicks-Hudson said current anti-scavenging legislation is too weak and she hopes to have the new proposal drafted by the end of the summer. Possible points would include increased penalties for scavenging and more stringent regulations for pawn and antique shops’ process of confirming potential sellers’ right to property.
“[Looters] are not salvaging [demolition sites], they are ripping off our houses,” said Fanny Effler, an attorney who worked with Hicks-Hudson on the proposal.
Jane Cairl, who owns the antique store Architectural Artifacts Downtown, said thieves have brought antiques stolen from empty houses to her store several times, driven by tough economic times to break the law for a few dollars. For thieves, selling stripped goods can be a quick and profitable way to do that. Some doorknobs at Architectural Artifacts, for instance, are resold for more than $180.
“We’ve put people in jail,” Cairl said. “If I feel that it’s something weird, I don’t buy it.”
Navarre said empty-home break-ins are recorded as “breaking and entering” in crime reports, but much of the stolen metal is untraceable.
“It’s a non-violent crime, so police don’t want to spend a lot of time tracking it,” Cairl said.