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Scrap metal bill finally clears first legislative hurdle

(via Flickr/Ctd 2005)

A billdesigned to crack down on the theft of scrap metal in St. Louis city finally cleared its first legislative hurdle on Tuesday.

The legislation's been languishing in the city's Public Safety committee since June as Ald. Donna Baringer and scrap metal companies in the city worked out a dispute over payment methods.

Baringer originally wanted to require that scrap yards mail a check for every purchase, rather than pay cash on the spot.  Dealers argued that would kill their business.

The compromise involves a peddler's license. The application process involves a background check and a fee. Scrappers with that license would be able to pick up a check (no cash) on the spot. Everyone else? Your check will be mailed to your permanent address.

The two biggest things driving an uptick in scrap theft are the poor economy and heroin addiction, Baringer said.

"A heroin addict needs $50 a day to get their fix, and they can grab one downspout off of a garage and that would get them their fix," Baringer said. "But they need it immediately, and they're not going to wait for a check to come in the mail, and I don't think that they will come down to the city of St. Louis and get a peddler's license."

The bill also:

  • Requires scrapyards to computerize their transactions by July 2012. Within that same timeframe, they'll have to link into a national database that tracks reports of stolen metal.
  • Limits the hours that scrapyards can be open - 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Block scrapyards from accepting catalytic converters.

The measure cleared the committee unanimously, and Baringer says she's picked up several more co-sponsors.

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.