County adopts new ordinance to fight metal thefts

skennedy@bradenton.comFebruary 29, 2012 

MANATEE -- In an effort to halt rampant metal theft, the Manatee County Commission Tuesday OK’d an ordinance designed to help sheriff’s deputies more effectively crack down on those who steal everything from copper wire inside air conditioners to manhole covers and shopping carts.

The new ordinance replaces the section of the county code regulating precious metals dealers and secondhand metals dealers, county documents said.

It was rushed through at the urging of Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube, who was concerned that bills in the Florida Legislature would pass and pre-empt any local attempts at regulation.

Cited in a written discussion of the ordinance was Senate Bill 540, which was approved Tuesday by a Senate subcommittee. It regulates secondary metals recyclers and prohibits certain cash transactions, among other things.

The new local ordinance requires secondary metals recyclers to maintain an electronic database listing detailed information, such as identification and photo of the seller, a clear thumbprint of the seller; and a photo of the item being sold.

New recordkeeping requirements are designed to better track transactions, and the ordinance also requires reasonable proof that the seller is the rightful owner or is authorized to sell on behalf of the owner.

“As you probably know, the economic recession is what’s generating the rise in metal thefts,” said Michele Hall, general counsel for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, told commissioners meeting at the County Administrative Center.

“Law enforcement agencies statewide have testified before county commissions and before legislative committees about the circumstances that have resulted in the increased criminal activity relating to the theft of secondary metals and other products,” she said.

The ordinance noted that increasing worldwide demand and rising prices for metals like aluminum, brass, cast iron, copper, palladium, platinum and steel have fueled a drastic increase in criminal metal thefts.

Among restricted regulated metals listed in county documents were such items as a manhole cover; electric light pole or utility structure; guard rails; railroad control boxes; commercial or industrial gas, water or sewer pipes; shopping carts, andr firefighting equipment.

Also Tuesday, Paul Stehle, a Republican candidate running for the county commission District 7 at-large seat now held by veteran Commissioner Joe McClash, said he was dropping out of the race.

The commission also approved a new schedule of development review fees, along with revised fees for building permit and inspection services.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031.

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