Police tell owners to put markings on metal items

By John W. Goodwin Jr.

Second of a two-part series.

YOUNGSTOWN — Warren Police Detective Justin Soroka has a thick file of scrap-metal-related thefts that gets a little thicker daily.

Property owner and landlord George Papalios’ name appears as a victim in Soroka’s files more times than either man can remember.

Papalio and Soroka do not agree on exactly how to combat scrap-metal theft, but both men are among those who believe that a new state law aimed at addressing the issue will not stop the growing problem.

The law calls for more accountability in scrap-metal sales, requiring scrap-metal businesses to record names and identifying information from anyone selling the metals.

Law enforcement from areas with high scrap-metal theft such as Warren, Youngstown and Girard are happy to see state lawmakers put something in place to handle scrap-metal theft, but all feel the criminals will still try to work around the law.

Soroka said one missing piece is identification — not of people, but of the stolen material. Once the material is stolen, he said, there is no way under the law of determining from where it came.

“If we have a house with all the metal ripped out and someone with identification selling copper, there is no way to identify that metal as the metal that was stolen,” Soroka said.

He suggests that anyone with a home, business or empty building containing metal piping that could be stolen put markings on the metal material. He said the thieves will be unaware of the markings and they can be used to identify the metal later.

Papalios followed Soroka’s advice and managed to recover a large quantity of metal piping stolen from his homes. He scoured local scrap yards until someone brought the material in to sell it. Warren police then arrested that would-be purveyor of stolen goods.

“A lot of these people will steal anything they can get their hands on. It’s just ridiculous,” Soroka added. “The new law does help, but it is just better to put an identifying mark on any metal or copper that might get stolen.”

Read the full story Monday in The Vindicator and on Vindy.com.

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