“I can send (the recording) to (police) every day,” said Tesler, co-owner of ABC Recycling at 595 Cobb Parkway. “But who’s going to watch it? They don’t have the staff.”
Tesler is concerned about two bills in the Georgia Legislature, one that’s been passed by the House and one by the Senate, which proponents say are intended to cut metal theft.
If passed, House Bill 872 or Senate Bill 321 would put requirements on secondary metals recyclers to get signed statements from everyone who brings them metal to sell, saying they are the rightful owner of the metal. It would also require them to keep a digital photograph or video of what was sold, as well as a record of the transaction.
In addition, all sales would have to be made by check or electronic payment, and sellers would have to show picture identification.
Metal businesses must also register with their local sheriff’s office to be part of an electronic database, with the sheriff allowed to charge each recycler a fee of up to $200 a year to maintain the database.
“I think that it’s way overkill,” Tesler said. “I think it’s not going to accomplish what they intend. I think it’s pretty much political grandstanding.”
Tesler’s business, which he co-owns with Adam Blank, has 15 employees, buying steel for 13 cents a pound, aluminum for 40 cents a pound and copper for up to $3 a pound.
He said he already keeps an eye out for illegal metal sales. Recyclers get updates from law enforcement, warning them to be on the lookout for metal items that have been stolen.
On Thursday, Tesler showed a notice he’d just received, telling recyclers to be on the lookout for ¾-inch water lines and brass shutoff valves that were stolen in Gwinnett County. He said they try to be aware of stolen materials.
“We’re on the lookout for everything,” Tesler said. “It’s not like we’re not trying to address it.”
Marietta Police Det. Russell Henson said law enforcement generally favors legislation that could prosecute people committing the thefts, or those assisting them. He also credits multi-jurisdictional agencies like the Copper Head Metal Task Force, which the Marietta Police Department heads up, for keeping an eye on the problem.
“Overall, these proposed new laws have some good points to them which can assist our agency as well as the Metal Theft Task Force to more effectively perform our job,” he said.
Everyone is at risk of metal theft, with homes, nonprofit agencies and businesses all potential targets, Henson said.
“The theft of metals has a negative impact on all involved,” he said. “Quite often the deductible required to replace or repair the damaged items is not available or hard to come by. In today’s economy, extra cash just isn’t available.”
Metal theft has come under the microscope recently in Marietta after Forrest Duaine Bee Jr., 45, an electrician in the city’s facilities and grounds department, was arrested on charges of theft by conversion.
According to police, Bee ordered electrical wiring worth $1,089 through a city purchase order to be used for the pavilion at Laurel Park. Instead of completing the job, he sold it to the Marietta Recycling Center off Marble Mill Road for $462.50 on Feb. 14, police said.
According to his arrest warrant, Bee sold more than 5,000 pounds of wiring to Marietta Recycling last year.
Bob Schmiedt, a lobbyist for the Georgia Recyclers Association, said the proposed legislation could be devastating to the $3.7 billion Georgia recycling industry, which employs 5,500 people in the state. His group is particularly concerned about the Senate bill, which would require a 14-day waiting period before the people who sell the metals are paid, and also requires checks to be mailed.
“We were able to negotiate with the House,” Schmiedt said. “The Senate didn’t want to negotiate much.”
But Henson sees the waiting period as valuable in slowing down metal thefts.
“The ‘nuisance’ thefts committed by those just looking to get their hands on some quick spending money would possibly come to a halt when the suspects have to wait for a check,” he said.
Schmiedt said his organization favors increased enforcement of existing laws. He said the city of Columbus recently reduced metal theft by 47 percent by running public service announcements warning that metal thieves would be prosecuted. A program that places color-coded markers inside air conditioning units was also started, allowing stolen parts to be identified more easily.
“If it had been up to me, I would have made a metal thief registry, very similar to what we do with sex offenders and DUIs,” Schmiedt said.
Schmiedt said metal recyclers will notify law enforcement if they see something suspicious, but there is only so much they can do.
“You’ve got to be careful because you don’t know who you’re dealing with,” he said. “You don’t know if they’re carrying a gun.”
Recyclers point to the environmental impact it could have to close their facilities, saying extra metal could quickly fill up landfills.
“We do a heck of a lot more good than any problems that may come about because of metal theft,” Tesler said.