BRISTOL, Va. - Metal theft continues to be a problem across the country. We've told you about desperate criminals taking manhole covers, active electrical wires or anything that can be sold to a recycler.
But as we discovered Monday, the buyers are more cautious these days and it may be the unscrupulous seller that should beware.
Tons of recyclable materials come through the doors of Wise Recycling in Bristol, Virginia. There's no way of knowing whether what is being sold is from a legitimate seller or a criminal selling stolen merchandise -- or is there?
"We take an extra step. We go to that extra point. The state requires us to take ID but we also do signatories, and we have video camera surveillance here at the location," general manager Chris Morehouse said.
"We'd much rather they'd bring it to us than throw it away, but we're cautious in what we buy," yard manager Jamie Reynolds adds.
There are signs that tell the seller that ID is required and there are many ways to track what is sold and by whom.
Local authorities are always on the lookout. "Law enforcement will come by and notify us if they have something that they are looking for or something that's been stolen. We look for that," Reynolds says.
And there are items that the recycler won't accept, Morehouse says. "Items such as chain link fence or large copper volumes, or anything like that. If they're not from an industrial account or specific dealer, we're very cautious on what we'll accept and won't," he told us.
And it's not big companies alone that are the targets -- so are common citizens. "We have a big problem with lawnmowers, metal, copper and things like that being stolen [from homes]. Keep those things hidden if at all possible, tell a trusted neighbor to keep an eye on your property, be cautious of who you allow on your property to see these items," Bristol, Virginia detective Angela Simpson says.
And if you do legitimately sell metal, be sure to deal with a responsible dealer.
Many states are pondering more laws regulating the sale of metals; Virginia is considering limiting the number of times to make such sales.