For Scrap

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The Memphis City Council's executive committee today sent an amendment to the city's scrap metal ordinance down to full council today for its first reading.

The city first enacted a scrap metal ordinance in 2007. The ordinance requires dealers to tag and hold scrap metal for 10 days to give the police time to track down stolen material. To deter thieves from stealing metal from air conditioning units, vacant homes and buildings, or cars for quick money, sellers are not given cash immediately, but instead receive a voucher from the scrap metal dealer.

The proposed amendment includes a tag-and-hold provision for telephone wire and cable, copper tubing, metals that have owner identification on them, catalytic converters, chain-link fences, and railroad spikes.

"That covers all the metals that are normally stolen," said council member Jim Strickland.

Though scrap metal thefts have decreased since the initial ordinance was passed, some of it has been attributed to decreasing metal prices. Scrap metal dealers have also continued to find fault with the ordinance.

"In the last two years, the scrap metal dealers have continued to operate in the ways they've always operated," said council member Reid Hedgepeth. "We've tried to put an ordinance in place to protect the city, and they've continued to do business the way they've always done it."

Scrap-metal-theft victims, the city attorney's office, and the police department all say the proposed amendment to the ordinance will be more effective in cutting down on scrap-metal thefts.

Memphis police director Larry Godwin said it remains to be seen how effective the tag-and-hold provision is, but feels the proposed amendment will be much more manageable to enforce.

"It is very difficult for us to walk into a scrap metal dealer and there's a pile of junk ... excuse me, scrap ... over there and I have to determine if that aluminum siding came off of your house or someone else's," Godwin said.

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