WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Metal prices are rising and so is metal theft. Police in our community say they are seeing a spike in reports of stolen aluminum and copper wiring. Local recycling centers are trying to make sure criminals have a tough time selling their stolen goods.
From stolen shutters and missing air conditioning units to snatched copper wiring, metal theft is costing people hundreds and even thousands of dollars in supplies and repairs.
"Your license, please?" an employee at Palm Beach Metal, Inc. in West Palm Beach asks the driver of a red pickup truck as he pulls in the gate.
Climbing metal thefts are why metal recycling centers like Palm Beach Metal are looking for anything suspicious. As metal theft has gone up, Florida law is cracking down on would-be thieves. Security cameras roll as customers, like Ed Webb from Hobe Sound, arrive. Cameras watch as he unloads boxes and bags of copper, aluminum and other metals.
"It keeps us honest people honest and it keeps the other people out, you know," he said.
Palm Beach Metal President John Caruso said while most customers are selling legitimate metals, theft is always a concern. His company receives email alerts through police, warning them to be on the lookout for stolen items. Additional security measures mean customers, like Webb, have a lot to do before they get paid.
"We also take an electronic signature of that employee saying the material they have does belong to them and they have the right to sell it," explained Caruso, "as well as an electronic thumbprint of the transaction."
Even with all the added security, Caruso said one of the biggest challenges remains how to spot an item that's stolen, especially since items can look very different when they're dismantled.
"We have a weekly training class for our buyers and everyone puts ideas on the table," he said, "or might have a piece of metal we show as an example."
Caruso said while they may not be able to catch every item, metal centers have come a long way in finding stolen goods.