New regulations were put in place for scrap metal sales in North Dakota on Wednesday making North Dakota the 49th state to regulate scrap metal sales.
The law, which began earlier than the Aug. 1 date that most new laws take effect, was made as an emergency measure "due to the prevalence of scrap metal thefts in North Dakota," according to a statement by the state attorney general's office.
"With all of the oilfield activity out west the problem has gotten a lot worse than it was 10 years ago and it was time for the state to put some reasonable regulations on scrap metal selling," said Sen. Roscoe Streyle, R-Minot, who sponsored the bill. "It's an area that needs to be addressed and this bill makes it pretty difficult to buy and sell metal (illegally) ... with the price of metal being what it's at, it's pretty attractive to get your hands on it."
North Dakota became the 49th state to impose regulations on the sales of scrap metal of all kinds including heavy metals like those stripped from these wrecked cars seen in the scrapyard of Continental Metal Products in Minot.
The regulations, which can be viewed online (1.usa.gov/121CT7C), impose strict record keeping on buyers and sellers of the metals as well as limits to the amounts that can be purchased in cash.
Cash purchases may not exceed $1,000. Anything larger would have to be paid with check or electronic transfer.
The records for purchases greater than $25 will have to include "[t]he date, time and place of each purchase or transaction," a description of the metal purchased, the amount and method of payment, the name and address of the seller or deliverer, and a photocopy of the seller or deliverer's state-issued identification. Those records must be kept for at least seven years after the date of purchase.
Keeping records for seven years was already the standard required for insurance purposes, said Dan Greene, general manager of Continental Metal Products on Valley Street in Minot. So that wasn't a new requirement for legitimate businesses, the reason for maintaining them just shifted a little.
"We already maintained 95 percent of the records," Greene said. "The only thing we weren't doing that the state now requires is taking photocopies of IDs, which we're doing now."
In fact, as the 49th state to implement the regulations many of Continental's out-of-state customers automatically took their photo IDs out when they got ready to make a transaction since it had already been required in their home states.
To ensure compliance, scrap metal dealers will have to keep their business and records open to inspection by law enforcement officers during regular business hours. Officers won't be required to obtain a warrant but will be required to state their inspection purposes and sign an inspection log if asked to do so by the dealer.
Greene sees the law less as a way to protect scrap metal dealers and buyers than as a way to ease law enforcement access to help track theft. He said that Continental always complied when law enforcement would call them up and ask them about a particular transaction or seller.
"The majority of the scrap metal dealers are already doing this so it's not going to be a big change for them," said Ward County Sheriff Steve Kukowski in agreement. He said that the issue has been a bit of a problem for the county with certain businesses seeing continual problems but that his office has a handle on it and that these new regulations will be a "good tool" to continue to clamp down on scrap theft.
"Well, not all individuals are 100 percent honest. If they have something to buy something for pennies on the dollar and sell for a huge profit ... they'll take advantage and pretend they didn't know they had to record it," Kukowski said.
Dealers who fail to comply with the regulations will be charged with a Class B misdemeanor. Sales of stolen scrap metal under $500 will carry a Class A misdemeanor charge and $500 and over will be a Class C felony. These charges are equal to state charges against theft of property in general.
"I think the penalties are sufficient," Kukowski said. "If you're in violation I think you need to be charged."