Senators back tougher penalties for illegally selling, buying scrap metal
Published: September 24, 2013
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ST. CROIX - When the Senate Government Services and Housing Committee met Monday, its first action item was an act toughening the penalties for illegally buying and selling scrap metal and establishing licensing requirements for scrap metal dealers and recyclers in the territory.
There was no question about the need for tighter regulations for the dealers and stiffer penalties for violators as the bill sailed through the committee.
The primary sponsor of the bill, Sen. Nereida Rivera-O'Reilly, said the bill first was presented in the 29th Legislature and earlier in the 30th Legislature but needed more discussion and some changes.
She said they had already heard testimony from representatives of the V.I. Waste Management Authority and the V.I. Police Department, and both agencies agreed that the law needed adjustments. Since then, an increase in the theft of metals has made the situation worse, Rivera-O'Reilly said.
The changes would give enforcement officers the authority to place a hold on items they deem to be suspicious or assume to be stolen, and those who claim ownership of any recovered stolen property would have to petition the courts for the property's return.
The law also would prohibit dealers from making any cash payments for more than $100 for any scrap metal.
St. Croix Police Chief James Parris said there should be a cap on the number of scrap metal dealers in the territory, because more of them would result in a greater chance of violations. The territory already has more than enough scrap metal businesses, he said.
An islandwide sweep late last month that led to the arrests of a scrap metal dealer and a cable contractor was just the latest in a series of crackdowns on the industry, Parris said. The multi-agency task force recovered spools of cable, cable connectors and transmitters and even some manhole covers that had been reported stolen by the Waste Management Authority just days earlier.
Police said residents should secure air conditioning units, artifacts and spools of cable that they know are valuable and that the department welcomes any changes that strengthens the laws.
Senators on the committee agreed that the proposed legislature was an easy one to support because they have all seen the increasing theft and hope they have found solutions to curbing it.
Sen. Terrence Nelson made the motion to move the bill on to the Rules and Judiciary Committee with a favorable recommendation. The motion was seconded by Sen. Clifford Graham and approved unanimously by Nelson, Graham and Senators Alicia Hansen, Diane Capehart and Judi Buckley. Senators Craig Barshinger and Donald Cole were absent from the meeting.
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