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Law enforcement hopes new changes to old law will lower crime rate

By Nadine Maeser, nmaeser@wdbj7.com
Published On: Jun 25 2013 10:31:09 PM EDT
Updated On: Jun 25 2013 11:47:06 PM EDT

Local law enforcement agencies say the new changes to the law will help catch and prosecute thieves even before they cash in on the stolen goods.

DANVILLE, Va. -

In less than a week, it could be a little harder for you to make some extra cash.

New changes are coming to an old Virginia law aimed at regulating the scrap metal industry.

According to the Danville Police Department, scrap metal larcenies continue to be a growing problem in our area.

However, local law enforcement said the new changes to the law will help catch and prosecute thieves before they cash in on stolen goods.

"It's very hard sometimes to determine where they stole the air conditioning coil or copper pipe, but you can always prove they don't have the permit," said Danville Police Chief Phillip Broadfoot.

The law will now leave a more detailed paper trail behind those selling and buying scrap metals illegally.

"It requires the thief to get a permit before they steal something and if they don't have a permit, which is likely to be the case, then you charge them with not having the permit," he said.

Beginning July 1st, if you're caught with scrap metal in your possession and you don’t have a permit, you'll be charged with a Class 1 Misdemeanor.

"I think it’s good for our industry as a whole because there are a lot of honest people that make a living this way both at our level and all the way down to the peddler trade so I think it levels the playing field on both fronts,” said AutoCycle owner Greg Weaver.

Weaver’s scrap metal yard is located in Danville and he said he’s had people come in and try to sell stolen scrap metals.

He said his company already has an extensive software system in place to track where the product comes from and who sells it, but he said the law will go a step further to help protect the people who make a living off of selling scrap metal and punish those who steal and sell for profit.

"A lot of them are honest hard working people and unfortunately there’s a couple bad apples that associate that stigma with our industry," he said.

The Danville Police Department and Pittsylvania Sheriff’s Office hopes the new law will lower the crime rate, but businesses believe it will only go so far.

"I think it's something we will always have to deal with just like any other criminal activity, but hopefully it will help,” said Weaver.

According to Broadfoot, there were 1,782 scrap metal and copper larcenies in 2007 and that number increased to 2,106 in 2008.

The permit is free, according to Broadfoot.

People looking to buy and sell scrap metals will be able to get a permit online.

If you are caught with scrap metal and no permit, you can face up to 12 months in jail and about $2,000 in fines.