Senator Schumer Launches Plan Against Copper Piping Theft

Industry Update: On October 3, New York Senator Charles E. Schumer proposed a plan that would crack down on vandals targeting scrap metal.  The plan would also aid law enforcement in protection of residents and infrastructure.


Kingston Police Report Dozens & Dozens of Cases of Copper & Other Metal Theft in Recent Years Alone; Schumer Plan Would Crackdown on Thieves & Provide Law Enforcement New Tools to Protect Residents, Infrastructure

Schumer Bill Would Require Metal Sellers to Provide Proof of Ownership, Limit Cash Payments from Recyclers for Scrap Metal to $100, Make it a Federal Offense to Steal Metal from Critical Infrastructure & More

Schumer: Time to Put Metal Thieves Behind Ironclad Bars
Today, at the Kingston Trolley Museum, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer joined local law enforcement and other officials in Kingston to crackdown on the recent rash of scrap metal theft in the city that threatens critical infrastructure, local residents, business owners and taxpayers. Due to the high price of iron, copper, and other metal in the market, theft in Ulster County has jumped significantly in recent years, and includes thefts of highway markers and street signs, specialized copper wire from the Kingston Trolley Museum, and wires from foreclosed homes. Thieves then sell that metal for fast cash at metal yards. This past summer, Ulster County law enforcement organizations recognized the need to combat metal theft, and arrested six individuals for stolen property and other metal theft crimes in that effort. In addition, they handed out over 120 citations and tickets for a range of violations at scrap metal yards. Last fall, a Central Hudson repair crew arrived at a downed power line to find that it had already been stripped of the metal wiring, putting local residents and the thief at massive risk. Schumer and Kingston law enforcement highlighted that tough federal laws are necessary to best track and stop this dangerous trend.
Schumer’s proposal would attack this growing problem in many practical ways: 1) require documentation that those selling metal to recyclers own the metal or are authorized to sell it; 2) require recyclers to keep detailed records for purchases of metal; 3) cap the amount at $100 in cash that recyclers can pay for scrap metal; 4) create a specific federal crime of stealing metal from critical infrastructure, and more. Schumer, who cosponsors this legislation with Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), highlighted that metal theft can cause serious danger to commuters, first responders, and local property owners, as these thieves can cause fires when utilizing blow torches to remove metal and can seriously compromise the integrity of public facilities.
“It is time to put thieves who steal scrap metal from Ulster County homes, businesses, infrastructure and even museums behind ironclad bars,” said Schumer. “This practical plan will combat this rash of metal theft by requiring recyclers to keep detailed documentation of metal purchases, capping the amount of cash recyclers can pay for scrap metal, ensuring that those selling metal are authorized to do so, and by making metal theft a federal crime. Ulster County police have worked tirelessly to prevent these thefts from spreading, including spearheading a two-week, multi-agency enforcement effort in July that focused on the sale and disposal of scrap metals and the scrap yards that buy the metals. But there is still more that can be done, and I will work with Ulster County Police Departments to make sure the only metal these criminals can get their hands on is in a locked jail cell. This proposal will safeguard Hudson Valley families, business owners, and commuters who are endangered by the stripped infrastructure, fires, and financial hit as a result of these crimes.”
Schumer’s Metal Theft Prevention Act is aimed at deterring thieves from procuring and selling stolen metal goods. As a baseline measure, it makes stealing metal from critical infrastructure a federal crime. The Act also includes stringent documentation requirements for sellers, and recordkeeping requirements for recyclers who buy scrap metal.
Schumer stood at the Kingston Trolley Museum and was joined in his push to end the spree of metal thefts by Kingston law enforcement officials and Dave Lowrie, Administrator of the Kingston Trolley Museum. Schumer noted that local businesses and vacant homes have been hit the hardest lately by metal thieves. These thieves often target homes that have been recently foreclosed or vacated and then rip out the metal plumbing and copper wiring while no one is watching.
Schumer pointed to one particularly troubling case of metal theft in Kingston where police arrested a man in July after discovering a pick-up truck full of stolen highway signs and scrap metal. The man was found to have been carrying signage from Route 9W, Route 44, and Route 55, as well as about fifty Thruway mile markers and other street signs. Unlike most metal thefts, this one poses a real danger to local commuters who rely on these signs to navigate local roads safely. Schumer highlighted another instance in Kingston, where police arrested two thieves who stole a 3000 ft. spool of specialized copper wire from the Kingston Trolley Museum. Metal thefts like these, while not a direct danger to the people of Kingston, damage the appeal and reputation of Ulster County.
Schumer’s plan stipulates that for those who sell scrap metal, the documentation requirement will indicate whether they own and/or are authorized to sell their metal, and only applies to metal products that would likely be owned by government entities or companies, and not private citizens. For recyclers, the recordkeeping requirement would mandate that they keep basic records of all purchases, such as the date of the purchase, a description of the metal, the amount paid, and the name and address of the seller. In addition, the Schumer’s metal theft legislation states that recyclers may not pay over $100 in cash for metal. Above $100, scrap metal sellers will have to be paid by check, aside from established commercial transactions. The provisions of the bill can be enforced by both the U.S. Attorney General and state attorneys general. The U.S. Sentencing Commission is directed to review and make any necessary changes to ensure that the penalties laid out in the guidelines appropriately reflect the serious nature of metal theft.

Metal theft has become increasingly prevalent in Ulster County, and recent events suggest it could continue to rise at an alarming pace:  

  • In August, two men from Saugerties were arrested for breaking into homes on Route 32 and stealing copper piping.
  • In July, police in Kingston arrested a man after finding a pick-up truck full of stolen highway signs and scrap metal. Police found signs from Route 9W, Route 44, Route 55, about 50 Thruway mile markers, sign posts for street signs and highway markers, and a large amount of random scrap metal.
  • An alarming number of summer homes in the area had their owners return to them to find all of their water pipes and other metal products stolen from their homes, leaving homeowners in a bind with no working water.
  • In May, a Ruby man was arrested for the theft of steel from the New York State Bridge Authority that was later sold as scrap metal.
  • Also in May, a man was charged with stealing a large amount of scrap metal being stored at the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center in Highmount.
  • In October 2011, two thieves illegally accessed the Kingston Trolley Museum grounds, cut apart a 3000 ft. spool of specialized copper wire valued at approximately $12,000, and sold it to a local metal recycler.
  • In August 2011, thieves removed several copper pipes from the King’s Inn, a former welfare motel at Broadway and Henry Street that was shut down by the city in 2007 and demolished last fall. According to the city’s fire chief at the time, the removal of the pipes disturbed asbestos insulation at the site, making asbestos airborne and increasing the city’s cost of abatement work by about $135,000.

To view the online release, please click here.

About Safeguard
Safeguard Properties is the largest privately held field services company in the country. Located in Cleveland, Ohio and founded in 1990 by Robert Klein, Safeguard has grown from a regional preservation company with a few employees  and a handful of contractors performing services in the Midwest, to a national company with more than 1,600 employees. Safeguard is supported by a nationwide network of subcontractors able to perform any requested superintendence, preservation, and maintenance functions, as well as numerous ancillary services in the U.S., the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.


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