An early morning Sept. 28 bust outside a sheet metal shop in Liberty Lake yielded two alleged metal theft suspects with apparent drug ties.
The suspects, 41-year-old Diane M. Putnam and 44-year-old Felix R. Colon, both of Spokane, were arrested behind Acrifab Display Products, which works with sheet metal. Police say they found the two pulling metal from a bin behind the store and loading it into a blue, 1984 Chevy truck.
Value of the loaded metal was estimated to be $315, enough for felony charges.
“Once we arrested them, we searched the truck and found an unlocked briefcase and inside it a set of scales with powder and a 35 millimeter film container that field tested positive for methamphetamine,” said Brian Asmus, Liberty Lake police chief.
Police also confiscated what they’re calling burglary tools, bolt cutters, wire cutters and a hammer.
Metal theft isn’t common in Liberty Lake, but police do see it, Asmus said.
A change in Washington recycling laws that took hold July 22 was supposed to put a crimp in a metal theft trend that seemed fueled by methamphetamine users stealing metal to support their habit.
Recyclers are now required to record the driver’s license and vehicle license plate of anyone attempting to recycle ferrous metals worth more $30. There’s also a 10-day waiting period before payment can be made to the people doing the recycling.
The change has created a lot of work for recycling companies, said Roger Baldwin, manager of American Recycling Corp. in Spokane Valley. He suspects some companies aren’t observing the new law, though American Recycling is.
“We’re turning away people we might have bought from before because now we can,” Baldwin said. “Before we couldn’t; it would have been discrimination.”
Baldwin suspects criminals recycling stolen metal have already found new ways around the law and in some cases may be using a front man to deliver metal and accept payment.