Bluffs Police work to curb scrap metal thefts


December 3rd, 2011 by Ric Hanson

Detectives with the Council Bluffs Police Department are making routine checks of area scrap yards, looking for items of metal which were stolen and may have been unwittingly purchased by the scrap yard operators. Every Friday, Detective Joe Hothersall of the Council Bluffs Police Department stops by the yards and picks up a stack of cards with the identification information and fingerprints of those who that week sold metals to the scrap yard. Hothersall makes sure the cards are filled out correctly. The owners tell him if anyone has dropped off anything suspicious. Police on both sides of the Missouri River say most companies are eager to cooperate.

Most of the scrap yard owners don’t mind the checks, because they don’t want buy stolen scrap metal, a crime which has grown immensely over the past few years. Thefts of copper have been most prominent. A typical air conditioner, according to Hothersall, has about $60 worth of copper inside, that can be ripped out, and sold for scrap.

Omaha and Council Bluffs both have ordinances mandating that recyclers document those who sell them metals. There is interest in both the Iowa Legislature and on the Pottawattamie County Board to require the same thing.

Iowa Representative Clel Baudler, a Republican from Greenfield, said such a measure will likely be introduced early in the 2012 session. Baudler, a former State Trooper, told the Omaha World-Herald  “These thieves will absolutely steal anything. I assume there would be several sponsors, including myself.” Nebraska already has a statewide law, though it may be strengthened this year with a bill to specifically outlaw the sales of sewer grates and manhole covers.

Loren Knauss, member of the Pottawattamie County Board of Supervisors and former Bluffs police officer, said there is interest in passing a county ordinance similar to the city ordinance that requires the documentation of sellers. The board members have considered such a measure in the past.