Peoria police: New database helps investigators catch metal thieves
By: Tim Vetscher
December 27, 2011
PEORIA, AZ –
A new law hopes to combat the theft of copper and other metals in Arizona.
When Mark Browitt buys scrap metal from someone, the state requires he fill out a whole host of paperwork complete with a copy of the seller’s driver license and a description of what they sold.
Come New Year’s Day, however, Browitt will begin submitting that information online.
“Everything is expedited a lot faster electronically to the metal thefts center where they process it,” said Browitt, General Manager of Davis Salvage Co. near 34th Street and Washington.
The LeadsOnline website collects the information from scrap yards which police can then use to cross reference with metal thefts in their jurisdiction in search of potential criminals.
Legally scrap yards aren’t required to use the new online system until January 1st, 2012 but some have already started and that’s already paying dividends for Valley police departments.
Investigators working a string of back flow valve thefts in Peoria scoured the website to see who, if anyone, had sold such a valve.
They claim the database returned the names of 25-year-old Douglas Tongen and 20-year-old Mark Villagomez.
Investigators said they started following the two and eventually caught them stealing metal.
“As this case illustrates, this particular vendor was ahead of his mandatory obligation and making the entries,” said Jay Davies with the Peoria Police Department. “The partnerships with these vendors are going to be critical.”
Browitt, for one, says he’ll do his part.
“People are stealing materials, so they need something to counteract that,” said Browitt.
He, and others, hopes the new system will put a dent in Arizona’s metal theft problem.