For nonferrous metal, "the value of the property stolen" would mean the replacement cost of the stolen nonferrous metal, the cost of repairing the damage caused by the larceny, or the sum of both of those amounts, whichever was greatest.
MCL 445.401 & 445.402 (S.B. 720)
750.356 (S.B. 1114)
(Please note: The arguments contained in this analysis originate from sources outside the Senate Fiscal Agency. The Senate Fiscal Agency neither supports nor opposes legislation.)
Scrap metal theft has become a major problem throughout Michigan. It affects both urban and rural areas, and has implications for economic development, financial recovery, public safety, and even homeland security, in addition to increased street crime. Construction sites, schools and churches, abandoned and occupied homes, graveyards, and public utilities have been targeted by thieves. The problem has hit rural areas with the theft of farm irrigation equipment and dairy production and retail equipment. According to reports from across the State, offenders have removed automobiles' catalytic converters (emissions control devices that contain small amounts of precious metal, usually platinum), severed metal components from utility facilities, removed manhole covers, and stolen decorative items and memorials from cemeteries and memorial gardens. In addition, thieves reportedly stole copper plumbing from a newly renovated decorative fountain at Detroit's Belle Isle, as well as 200 lead bricks, with a total weight of about 5,000 pounds, from the University of Michigan.
These crimes have a broad detrimental effect not only on the direct victims, but on society as a whole. The replacement cost of the items stolen is far more than the value of the metal that thieves take, apparently intending to sell it to scrap dealers. Among other things, this drives up the cost of construction and energy. Also, the deflated real estate market and increase in home foreclosures create vulnerable targets for the theft of copper pipes, air conditioning unit components, hot water heaters, sinks, appliances, and other metal articles from vacant homes, making them less marketable, reducing property values, and contributing to neighborhood blight. Damaged utility facilities, caused by the removal of components from electrical transformers or copper wires from telephone lines and switches, result in diminished or lost service. In addition to causing power blackouts, this can mean that individuals are unable to reach 9-1-1 emergency services and businesses lose access to credit card, debit, and State lottery transactions. According to military and law enforcement personnel, deficiencies in the power grid and telecommunications systems raise homeland security concerns. Missing manhole covers can pose a hazard to both pedestrians and motorists. Thefts from schools, places of worship, and cemeteries not only result in high replacement costs, but take a noneconomic toll on the community as well. The Belle Isle fountain incurred about $100,000 worth of damage and the theft of its plumbing has denied park visitors the enjoyment of the fountain. The lead brick theft from the University of Michigan has safety implications for researchers and workers, as the bricks were used as barriers to contain radiation in scientific experiments.
By increasing record-keeping and reporting requirements for scrap dealers, implementing identification requirements for sellers of scrap metal, and imposing strict criminal penalties and civil remedies, the bills would combat the widespread problem of scrap metal theft. This approach would address both the demand and the supply sides of the scrap metal market, and could help to contain the rapid growth in scrap metal theft that has occurred over the last several years. Further, addressing the problem in this multifaceted manner would go far beyond deterring simple street-level larcenies. It also could help to improve public safety, contain price increases in various market sectors, make Michigan a more attractive location for economic development, and assist law enforcement and military officials in maintaining homeland security.
Response: The legislation would apply only to nonferrous metal but, according to testimony before the Senate Economic Development and Regulatory Reform Committee, all types of metal have been targeted. Homeowners, for instance, have lost such items as stainless steel sinks to scrap metal thieves.
Penalties for stealing scrap metal, and for buying and selling stolen scrap, should be based on replacement costs, not just on the value of the stolen property. While the value of individual components stolen and sold for scrap might be relatively minor, the costs of replacement (which may require trouble-shooting, environmental cleanup, labor, and other expenses) usually are much greater.
Response: Senate Bill 1114 (S-1) specifies that, if the property stolen were nonferrous metal, the value of the property stolen would include replacement and repair costs.
Legislative Analyst: Patrick Affholter
Senate Bill 720 (S-2)
The bill would likely have no impact on State revenue or expenditure. The bill potentially could change the distribution of revenue across local units by affecting the location of businesses regulated by Public Act 350 of 1917, because junk businesses could no longer be prohibited from locating in an area by the petition of local property owners.
Senate Bill 1114 S-1)
The bill would have an indeterminate fiscal impact on State and local government. In 2005, 371 offenders were convicted of felony larceny as their controlling offense for sentencing purposes. There are no data indicating how many offenders were convicted of misdemeanor larceny. Depending on how much value the cost of repairing the damage caused by the larceny of nonferrous metal would add, the bill could change the category of larceny under which offenders are charged. To the extent that the bill would result in increased incarceration time or increased sentences to jail, local governments would incur increased costs of incarceration in local facilities, which vary by county. To the extent that the bill would result in increased incarceration time or sentences to prison, the State would incur increased costs of incarceration in a State facility at an average annual cost of $33,000. Additional penal fine revenue would benefit public libraries.
Senate Bill 1358 (S-3)
The bill would have an indeterminate fiscal impact on State and local government. There are no data to indicate how many dealers would be convicted of violations relating to producing and
maintaining records of purchase transactions as described in the bill, or how many people would be convicted of knowingly buying or selling stolen nonferrous metal articles. Local governments would incur the costs of misdemeanor probation and incarceration in local facilities, which vary by county. The State would incur the cost of felony probation at an annual average cost of $2,000, as well as the cost of incarceration in a State facility at an average annual cost of $33,000. Additional State civil infraction and penal fine revenue would benefit public libraries.
Fiscal Analyst: Lindsay Hollander
Analysis was prepared by nonpartisan Senate staff for use by the Senate in its deliberations and does not constitute an official statement of legislative intent. sb720etal/0708