SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

July 19, 2013

Locals at forefront of metal theft law

(Continued)

“The Senate wanted a 10- or 15-day holding period, like a pawn shop. ... It would have made the bill unenforceable,” Speliotis said.

Solomon said most metal operations lack the space to “tag and hold” large quantities of metal for long periods.

“It’s a job-killer, as well,” he said.

Speliotis is eager to overcome the disagreement with the Senate.

“This is one of my top priorities of this legislative session. I’m adamant about seeing this pass,” he said. “I was very disappointed and upset that it didn’t pass last year.”

With a number of metal dealers in nearby Everett and Chelsea, the issue has galvanized North Shore legislators in general, he said.

A new bill sponsored by Rep. Ronald Mariano, D-Quincy, is currently before the House. It requires written records of metal sales, and it bars the purchase of certain items, except when the seller is a company or municipality. The list of forbidden objects gives an idea of just what’s being stolen, including “cables used only in high-voltage transmission lines ... traffic signs ... beer kegs ... historical markers ... benches from athletic fields and bleachers,” as well as manhole covers and guard rails.

Desperation is behind the efforts of some people to sell such things, said Solomon, but he also has no patience with dealers who buy such items.

“It boggles my mind that when somebody sees this, they don’t stop it,” he said. “... It shouldn’t happen, and shame on anybody who lets it happen.”

But the problem for some buyers, he said, is that they often don’t know they’re buying the metal plaque or the manhole cover.

“It’s buried in the load. ... It just doesn’t get seen,” he said.

Keenan and state Sen. Joan Lovely, D-Salem, have sponsored separate legislation that would increase penalties for stripping copper gutters and other metal objects from historic properties. It is presently in committee in the House.

Staff writer Alan Burke can be reached at aburke@salemnews.com.

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