The Michigan GOP Just Made It easier For Scrappers To Tear Your House Apart While You’re At Work


“If I have to be troubled to reach all the way into my pocket and pull out my driver’s license to buy a box of Sudafed, why can’t we burden the scrap yard to ask for ID when someone’s trying to unload 700 tons of steel I-beams?” -Dan Austin, Detroit Free Press


Since the Great Recession began in 2008, the Detroit metropolitan area has become a haven for scrap metal collectors.  These men and women or “scrappers” who are usually laid-off autoworkers, drug addicts, high school dropouts flock to Detroit’s industrial ruins and plethora of abandoned office buildings, schools and homes and to lay claim on everything made of metal as if it were the California Gold Rush of 1849.

Scrappers stealing a railing at an abandoned school.  Courtesy of Steve Neavling at Motor City Muckraker
Scrappers stealing a railing at an abandoned school. Courtesy of Steve Neavling at Motor City Muckraker

Things that were once considered off limits like religious or historical items are now up for grabs. Thieves have stolen church bells and in one case thieves even stole what they thought was a bronze Jesus from a crucifix at the Church of the Messiah which was actually plaster colored to look like aged bronze. Scrappers are stealing manhole covers and exhuming coffins to steal the jewelry and the metal coffins of the dead.

The situation is so bad and competition so fierce that scrappers are now stealing A/C units, furnaces and hot water heaters from homes in the suburbs while people are at work.  Thieves are stealing catalytic converters from Cadillacs and the minivans driven by soccer moms in posh suburban communities like Bloomfield Hills and Rochester.

Several wannabe electrical engineers were electrocuted when they tried to steal the copper wire from a street light that was powered on.   Michael Lynch, DTE Energy’s director of security, told the Detroit Free Press, “that in the past six weeks alone, 22 of the utility’s substations have been hit by copper thieves, causing power outages to thousands of Michiganders and costing DTE tens of millions a year.”

You would think the self-proclaimed “law and order” Republican members of the Michigan Legislature would act swiftly to crack down on this lawlessness so they can brag to their constituents in next year’s election that they helped end this scourge that has been plaguing Michigan for the last half decade.

Think again, the GOP controlled Michigan Legislature actually loosened the regulations regarding scrapping after lobby for the scrap metal industry paid a visit to the state Capitol and began writing checks.  Members of the House agreed with the scrap industry’s lobbyist that it was too much of a headache for the scrap metal shop buying the metal to ask for identification from the individual selling them the scrap.

During testimony in front of the Michigan House Regulatory Reform Committee, police, prosecutors, utility companies and business owners told lawmakers that illegal scrapping is a plague that is a threat to businesses and individuals and endangers public safety. Such pleas from the law enforcement and businesses didn’t persuade Tea Party Activist and Anti-Tax Zealot GOP State Rep. Tom McMillin, who actually asked police and prosecutors, “How much more policing do you want businesses to do for you?”

McMillin is implying that scrapping is a problem created by mismanagement of police funds and personnel.  As a former Mayor of Auburn Hills, McMillin knows that such a statement is just plain ludicrous.

In what could be considered a twisted joke while the House Regulatory Reform Committee was killing a bill requiring stricter rules and enforcement of illegal scrapping, the GOP controlled Michigan Senate was passing legislation recognizing September 19th as “Talk Like A Pirate” Day.

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