Three Baltimore scrap metal companies have pleaded guilty to improperly buying metal, after a city crackdown on thieves who strip metal from vacant houses to sell.
"Our neighborhoods are being stripped by vandals and thieves, and the economic engine driving the sales of these stolen goods -- the scrap dealers who don't comply with the law -- are directly assisting in the process," said Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.
Each of the companies failed to keep accurate records of their transactions and did not submit transaction sheets to police officials, as required by law. Police detectives depend on dealers to record who brought in the metal, in case the materials were stolen.
Industrial Metals-Early Corp. of the 1500 block of N. Warwick Ave. was fined $800, Franklintown Metals & Cores of the 100 block of McPhail St. was fined $450 and Baltimore Scrap Corp. of the 1600 block of Carbon Ave. was fined $250, court records show.
"Many of Baltimore's vacant houses have suffered devastating effects of thieves illegally entering them and completely stripping them of metal windows, copper piping, hot water heaters and other valuables worth tens of thousands of dollars in replacement costs," said city Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III.
Outlets for the stolen items are often scrap metal dealers who will pay cash for metal brought in, Mr. Henson said.
In April, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke became so angry about the thefts that he ordered a police crackdown and sent a strongly worded letter to 13 dealers across the city, saying the thefts were affecting the city's housing stock. In some cases, entire furnaces were taken from houses, he said.
Charges are pending against two other scrap metal companies, city officials said.