It seems like every week, there is a new story about a home or business that has fallen victim to copper theft. Thieves seeking the expensive metal are getting away with bundles of wires, pipes and scrap in order to sell the goods for quick cash.
But who is buying it?
KING 5 gathered unused metal from the television station building and put metal recycling businesses to the test.
State law, designed to prevent thieves from cashing in on stolen metal, requires buyers to record a seller's driver's license, license plate and pay no more than $30 cash at one time. Any amount over $30 must be paid using a check.
KING 5 selected metal recycling businesses at random. The first stop was Simon Metals in Tacoma. The company did everything they were supposed to do and provided us a check for our scrap.
United Metals in Snohomish also appeared to do everything right. Our receipt did not included our license plate number. But video surveillance may have captured the information.
There were no issues with Valley Recycling in Pacific.
At Green Day Trading and Recycling in Seattle's South Park neighborhood, we handed over almost 100 pounds of copper pipe and wire. The attendant took a copy of our driver's license. But the company gave us $97 cash. According to state law that is illegal.
The company's owner said he did not know that part of the law and calls it an innocent mistake. He says the company has several safeguards in place prevent metal thieves from cashing in.
"It's not an easy problem to solve," said Ryan Glant, Executive Vice President of Pacific Iron and Metal in Seattle. Glant says the most effective solution yet is an online alert system, required by the state, to alert scrap yard employees what stolen items may come through the door.
"The reality is, there probably are a few things that sneak by," he said. "But it's better off that we keep that here in case we get an alert that there is a stolen item."
Glant, who is also the chapter president of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, wants to see a 'no buy' list in place. That way, he says, businesses can be even more effective in deterring thieves to steal at all.
"Right now the challenge is, if you send the copper out the door, they're going to go send it somewhere else anyway," Glant said. "It's a problem that deserves solution."