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New state law helps prosecute metal thieves

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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (NEWS RELEASE) -- As of October 1 the State Legislature has enacted the Metal Theft Prevention Act, which aims to aid in the prosecution of thieves involved in the theft of nonferrous metals and ultimately help diminish or prevent this crime.

Nonferrous metals are those which do not include a significant amount of iron or steel and consist of but are not limited to any type of copper or copper wiring, aluminum, and mixtures of copper and aluminum. Some of these items are catalytic converters not attached to a vehicle, air conditioner coils and parts, and lead acid batteries.

A part of this new law requires any secondary metals recycling facility or site (any business that purchases these types of items for the purpose of recycling or reselling) to have a Secondary Metals Recycler Permit issued by the Sheriff’s Office of the county they are operating in and in the requirements of obtaining this permit the business must comply with all North Carolina regulations of record keeping for purchasing these metal items, making them open to inspection by law enforcement.

The metal recycling businesses must maintain copies of all the information for the seller of the nonferrous metal including the name, address, driver’s license or government issued identification number, vehicle information including the license plate of the vehicle used to transport the metal items, and in some cases a fingerprint impression of the seller’s index finger. The new law also stipulates that metal recyclers cannot purchase any air conditioner coils from private citizens not affiliated with commercial, industrial, or licensed HVAC entities.

This law also makes it a separate criminal offense to cut or dismantle an air conditioning unit to remove the inner coils in the process of the theft, and due to the damage it causes it will most often be classified as a felony.

This law was enacted to combat the rising trend of air conditioner and copper theft and metal thieves should be warned that if they continue to commit these acts, law enforcement will have all the necessary information to prosecute them for their crimes, including video surveillance footage in most cases.

Any business within New Hanover County, including inside the city limits of Wilmington, that operates as a secondary metals recycler or purchases nonferrous metals should contact the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office Civil Division at (910)798-4516 to apply for a Secondary Metals Recycler Permit (Nonferrous Metals Purchaser Permit) and can expect an on-site visit from a law enforcement official to assure compliance with the record keeping portion of the new law.

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