Pacific Daily News

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (April 10, 2008) - Local authorities must crack down on businesses that continue to accept stolen scrap metal. The seemingly never-ending reports of stolen copper wire, metals and equipment that contain these coveted items show that not enough is being done to combat this serious community problem.

There needs to be a concerted effort to clamp down on thieves and -- just as importantly -- businesses that encourage these crimes. As long as there is a market for these stolen items, thieves will continue to desecrate our historical monuments and cemeteries, break into our schools and businesses, and damage our water and power lines to steal these items and sell them as scrap.

In the case against Joseph Elibosang, who pleaded guilty to stealing and selling bronze plaques from the Asan Bay Overlook World War II memorial, federal prosecutors and the federal public defender said local authorities have had the opportunity to take adverse action against the company that accepted the stolen items, but they have not done so. That only tells these unscrupulous scrap dealers that they can get away with their criminal behavior.

Legislators also must pass tougher laws that harshly penalize thieves and the businesses that fail to follow or ignore these laws. Guam should follow Hawaii’s enactment of a measure that specifically targets copper theft. We need a law that automatically makes it a felony to steal scrap metal and sell it to a recycling center, and charges the offender with heavy fines. This would help deter those who specifically steal such items for the purpose of selling it to a scrap business.

But having additional laws against these crimes isn’t enough. There needs to be better enforcement. The lack of resources must no longer be an excuse. Law enforcement agencies need to better coordinate their efforts against thieves and the businesses with which they deal.

Some legitimate businesses may complain that they shouldn’t be penalized with more layers of regulation, but their cooperation with police and compliance with the law is key to curbing this widespread problem.

We can’t allow these thieves and businesses to continue to profit from these crimes against the community. We need tough and immediate action now.

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