California lawmakers to crack down on metal theft epidemic; proposal targets scrap yards, recyclers

SAN DIEGO - Thieves targeting metal from anywhere and everywhere are becoming an epidemic in San Diego County. 10News has learned that state lawmakers are pushing to punish the businesses who buy it.

"When we see fire hydrants come through, we get concerned," explained Josh Turchin, president of One Earth Recycling. 

Turchin said he sees some pretty unusual items brought into his recycling center by suspected thieves.

"Cemetery headstones, brass headstones, with someone's name on them, plaques from statues, or statues themselves," he said.

So Turchin said he installed surveillance cameras, and keeps record of the metal brought in -- and the seller who brought it. This includes photo identification, a contractor license number, a taxpayer identification number, as well as proof of working with a businesses.

It's part of a law that passed in 2008, but Turchin agrees more needs to be done.

"We see a lack of enforcement," Turchin said. "We have customers say to us flatly, we'll just go down the street and they don't ask us for anything and don't make us wait to get the money, so it's frustrating. It's an uneven playing field."

A proposed law is now headed for the State Assembly, which could give regulators more teeth to take action against businesses willing to pay for the stolen loot. 

There are an estimated 60 to 65 recycling centers in San Diego County, but law enforcement says there are more that don't report themselves or disclose their whereabouts in order to fly under the radar.

"The problem lies right there, they are creating a haven for these metal thieves a place to go and recycle these metals, they are not supposed to be paid on the spot," explained Matt Clay, president of the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association of San Diego County. "There are legitimate recyclers out there who are losing business because they play by the rules. These guys are flying under the radar."

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