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KC tries to clamp down on the crushing of stolen vehicles

Updated: 2013-10-17T05:31:11Z

By LYNN HORSLEY

The Kansas City Star

Imagine discovering that your car has been stolen –– and then, even worse, that it’s been shredded to bits.

Kansas City police say that’s happened dozens of times in the past year.

“It’s very hard to tell a victim that their car is in many pieces,” Detective David DeLaMare of the East Patrol told the City Council’s Public Safety Committee on Wednesday.

The committee supported an ordinance, which the full council will vote on Thursday, to try to clamp down on those incidents. It would require metal recyclers to hold most vehicles for 72 hours before they can be crushed.

“This is something we feel is an important change,” said Jim Ready, manager of the city’s regulated industries division.

Ready explained that salvage yards are already subject to the 72-hour hold requirement, but metal recyclers are not.

According to police, rogue tow truck drivers pick up cars without proper authorization and take them to the metal recyclers, as do thieves who take stolen cars to recyclers for scrap.

Police Sgt. Rodney Gentry, who handles property crimes for the South Patrol, told the committee that the theft of vehicles more than 10 years old has become a big problem since the state legislature approved a law in 2012. The law allows scrap metal operators to purchase or acquire an inoperable vehicle more than 10 years old without receiving the original title certificate or bill of sale.

Gentry said that since Jan. 1 of this year, 2,586 cars have been stolen in Kansas City and 70 percent were over 10 years old.

He said his team is aware of several incidents in which stolen vehicles were taken to metal recyclers and pulverized very quickly, sometimes minutes before officers arrived.

Gentry did not know how many stolen vehices have been crushed, but DeLaMare said he has had dozens of victims whose cars were stolen and later officers discovered those cars had been crushed.

The hold would not apply for vehicles purchased from a registered owner who provides proof of ownership.

The police said a three-day hold would help with investigations and recovery of stolen vehicles.

But Chasitie Walden of Midwest Scrap Metal said it would be a hardship for the business. She said salvage yards have the space to hold multiple vehicles for three days, but scrap metal recyclers do not. She warned that the cars will just be taken to other municipalities that don’t have a mandatory hold time.

Still, the committee endorsed the change. Violators would be subject to a minimum fine of $200 for a first offense.

“I think most Kansas Citians had no idea this was going on,” committee chairman John Sharp said.

To reach Lynn Horsley, call 816-226-2058 or send email to lhorsley@kcstar.com.

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