Dealers in scrap are supposed to, among other things, verify the identity of a person selling them metal, keep detailed records of the transaction, submit weekly reports of purchases to local police, and photograph the car or truck that delivered the stuff.
In a lot of cases, according to a lengthy investigative report by the New Haven Register in April 2012, that simply isn't happening. Reporters for the paper had no trouble selling one of the Register's newspaper honor boxes to a Derby scrap dealer for $6, no questions asked and no ID required.
That sort of stuff happens all the time. The rash of thefts from war memorials, however, sent state and federal lawmakers into a patriotic dither.
The 2012 General Assembly responded by making stealing from or desecrating war memorials or monuments a felony offense punishable by up to five years in prison and fines of up to $5,000.
Even our do-nothing Congress got riled up and in December actually approved legislation upping the federal penalties for messing with veterans' memorials and war memorials. Once the new law takes effect, a thief doing that could get hit with a 5-10 year federal prison term and fines as high as $250,000, or double the amount of the damage.
But just increasing penalties isn't likely to solve the problem.
Even some of the more reputable scrap dealers believe the scumbags in their industry are getting away with way too much in Connecticut. Jerry Green, a Plainville scrap yard owner and New England chapter president of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, a national trade association, has been quoted as saying "enforcement is lacking."
State Rep. Jason Perillo, a Shelton Republican who co-authored the bill to increase penalties for war memorial thieves, admits it can be tough for the cops to track down the dudes responsible for stealing this stuff and for scrap dealers to always know the origin of the metal they're buying.
But some cases, like a person trying to get money for a big bronze plaque bearing the names of World War II veterans, say, shouldn't be all that difficult.
"One would think a respectable scrap dealer would recognize that was a problem," Perillo says sourly. "But not all scrap dealers are respectable."