DETROIT -

A Senate Economic Development Committee hearing will take place Thursday in southwest Detroit to hear about the problems and potential solutions to scrap metal thefts affecting Michigan communities.

"Scrap metal theft is a danger to everyone in the community, from drivers, to pedestrians, to homeowners," said Sen. Michael Kowall (R-White Lake). "We cannot allow people to strip our communities of manhole covers, copper wiring, and farm equipment just to make a fast-and illegal-buck. This has to stop."

The committee says the theft of scrap affects urban, suburban, and rural communities and contributes directly to the problem of blight in communities.

The trend involves the theft of copper tubing from construction sites and copper wiring from telephone or utility lines. As metal prices continue to rise, officials said the theft of more types of metal also is on the rise.

Earlier this year, Sen. Virgil Smith (D-Detroit) introduced legislation that would help take a bite out of scrap metal theft.

Officials said the bills are Senate Bills are 468, 469, and 470. The bills are co-sponsored by Kowall.

"I am excited and honored that the Chair of the Economic Development Committee is coming to my community to hear, firsthand, about our problems," Smith said. "Too many times decisions are made in Lansing without the opportunity for citizens' voices to be heard. This Committee will be in the heart of a community that has been hit hardest by scrap metal theft. I commend Chairman Kowall for holding this hearing in Detroit."

Senate Bill 468 would require the registration of scrap metal sellers. Officials said it also requires that a person wanting to sell or transport nonferrous scrap metal have a valid permit issued by their local sheriff's office. If a scrap dealer buys or sells stolen scrap metal, their license will be revoked for one year and they are guilty of a five year felony and a fine of not more than $5,000.

Senate Bill 469 requires scrap metal dealers to verify the purchase permit of a seller from the local sheriff's office as required by SB 468.

Finally, Senate Bill 470 creates the Scrap Metal Offenders Registry, in which a regulatory fee of $1 collected for each metal transaction funds the Metal Offender Registry, and helps local law enforcement to fight scrap metal theft.

The meeting will begin at 2:30 p.m. Thursday at Bridging Communities, located at 6900 McGraw in Detroit.

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