One on One with… the Recycling Industry
This month the Dispatch focuses on the partnership aspect of community policing in an interview with two executives representing the recycling industry: Associate Editor Amy Schapiro spoke with Denny Lewis, branch manager of CMC Recycling, and Michael Bianculli, director of Ocala Recycling. Both companies are located in Marion County, Florida. Director Bianculli is also a board member of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) National Metal Task Force. ISRI is based in Washington, D.C.
CP Dispatch:How did your partnership begin with local law enforcement to combat metal theft?
Manager Lewis: We have always worked with local law enforcement because crime always happens, just now metal theft is becoming a major epidemic. Prices are so historically high that everyone wants to get in the game. The scrappers are fighting over the scraps and stealing off construction sites. As a result, it was causing a problem for the police and they reached out to us. They kept dispatching officers for metal theft. Detective Gary Bush from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) set the tone for everything. He formed a task force and has gotten more and more people involved. The problem started with theft from new home construction sites and really escalated. Detective Bush created an open dialog with us about the problem.
Director Bianculli: The catalyst has certainly been the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. We started working closely with them in November 2006 because Sheriff Ed Dean detected metal theft as a problem. He was ahead of the curve. MCSO contacted us and convened a meeting, Denny Lewis was there, too. Over time, we developed a BOLO team consisting of 20 employees who regularly interact with peddlers. We provided them with training on how to identify suspicions transactions. It really is a two-prong approach—the sheriff’s office can contact us and we can contact them.
CP Dispatch: What factors have contributed to the success of this partnership?
Manager Lewis: We have an excellent record-keeping system which has the exact type of information the police need. We have always tracked customers closely, always required identification, and tags/license plates which police departments are starting to require now. We also communicate and coordinate with Ocala Recycling which is mutually beneficial.
Director Bianculli: Communication, effective and efficient communication. We have one person designated as our law enforcement liaison who works not only with the MSCO, but with the surrounding counties. MCSO also has a central point of contact, Detective Gary Bush. For every 15 arrests made, we take the BOLO team, spouses, and law enforcement partners out to dinner. The sheriff surprised us and came to our last dinner celebrating the 30th arrest attributed to information from our BOLO team. It was special for our employees to meet the sheriff and to have an opportunity to shake his hand.
CP Dispatch: What suggestions do you have for others who want to implement a similar program?
Manager Lewis: Other agencies should meet individuals who run scrap yards in their communities and use them as a tool. Part of the problem is a perception that people use scrap yards as junkyards. That perspective is part of the problem, but that is not the case. We can be part of the solution.
Director Bianculli: The two most important things are having an individual who is the focal point and to train your employees. While they learned about signs of metal theft we also invited Detective Bush to spend two shifts with us. He was exposed to what happens at a scrap yard and the sheer volume. Most people think of this industry as a pawn shop, but we buy 30 million pounds of metal a month. This flabbergasted him. A vast majority of the purchases are completely perfect. Only a small percentage are problematic. Having the detective see our recycling yard in action gave him a better appreciation for what we do and built trust on both sides.
CP Dispatch: Had you heard of community policing before this initiative?
Director Bianculli: No. To tell you the truth I was excited because we were participating in community policing for 2 years without realizing there was a name for it.
More information about Marion County’s efforts to fight metal theft may also be found in the article on property crime in this issue of the Dispatch.