KC strengthens ordinances on salvage yards, tow trucks to cut down on theft

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Hundreds of thousands of pounds of metal are salvaged, scrapped and recycled in Kansas City every year. But where does it all come from?

Most of the product is  sold legitimately, but city leaders say some of it is stolen.

"People go in and take out wiring, plumbing, and go out and sell it. There are instances where people who have a hitch come up, take a car, take it to someplace and sell it and that car gets scraped," Kansas City Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wagner said.

After complaints, mostly from Northeast Kansas City neighborhood associations, the city started working on a plan to better regulate salvage and scrap metal yards and the tow trucks that sometimes bring in the vehicles.

A state law passed in 2012 allowing cars older than 10 years to be scrapped without a title has led to a 14 percent increase in auto theft, according to Wagner.

Sanford Levine has run KC Iron and Metal near 18th and Vine for 44 years. He doesn't crush cars but does accept one item popular among thieves: copper.

But he has plenty of cameras to try to deter anyone from bringing stolen property.

"There's a 30-day hard drive that we need to maintain and actually film the transactions that take place in our facilities. It just helps the police. God forbid you get something that might be stolen, which can happen," Levine said.

KC Iron and Metal already required customer's drivers licenses. But under the ordinance passed Thursday,  scrap metal yards can no longer accept walk ins.

Customers have to drive scrap to the facility in a licensed vehicle. Catalytic converters can't be accepted at salvage yards without a receipt. Tow truck drivers can't have been convicted of auto theft in the past 10 years. The new ordinance also increases associated penalties for violations.

Levine said he's happy to do his part.

"Every yard in Kansas City wants Kansas City to be crime free if possible," Levine said.

Wagner said strengthening Kansas City's ordinance will only really curb crime if surrounding communities take similar steps. He said the next step is to make increased scrutiny on the industries a regional effort.

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