Mississippi Has New System To Catch Metal Thieves

By Don Culpepper - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Biloxi Police Chief Bruce Dunagan stood along side some of the remnants of the city's most famous example of scrap metal theft Thursday, as he listened to Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann unveil Mississippi's new system to catch metal thieves.

"We have pieces of the Golden Fisherman and he is in an undisclosed location," Chief Dunagan said.

The storm battered fisherman was carted off and almost sold for scrap before a tip helped police locate the beloved, if sometimes maligned, mariner. But soon, authorities won't have to rely on tips alone to catch metal thieves.

"We had to stop copper theft in Mississippi," said Hosemann. "We at least had to give our law enforcement and prosecutor authorities the guns they needed to combat it."

That weapon is a first of its kind records collection system that monitors and identifies who's selling certain metals at the state's scrap yards.

"Now we'll have a statewide network that is no charge to law enforcement, that will allow them to come on and see every copper sale within a second of the time it was downloaded," Hosemann said.

Scrap dealers and processors must pay a fee and register for the program, which requires them to scan a seller's picture and driver's license into a computer database. Chief Dunagan said it's nothing an honest seller should mind doing.

"For the owners of some of these yards, it's a little more paperwork and work," Dunagan said. "It may cost them a little more expense. But I think the honest dealers, if they say they're going to lose customers, then those are customers they don't want to have in the first place."

Friday night on WLOX News, Steve Phillips will talk to local scrap dealers about what they think of the Secretary of State's solution to curtail what has become a billion dollar business nationwide.