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Minnesota anticipated the current wave of auto thefts. Lawmakers have since scrapped the tools to fight it.

Surveillance footage shows the last time we saw Vada Haxton’s car in February. Her red Toyota her Camry is being towed by maple scrap of her glove to her recycling facility.

Huxton then received a surprising letter from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. That said, her car was scrapped just seven months after she reported her stolen.

By the time the police responded, it was too late. Her car was gone.

“They said the car would normally be recovered in a few months, so I stayed hopeful,” Huxton said. “It never really was.”

Huxton’s car was one of more than 3,800 vehicles reported stolen in Minneapolis last year alone, in a wave of crimes that are challenging statewide agencies looking to crack down on everything from armaments. is part of car jack to thieves all over the country catalytic converter.

5 A survey found that lawmakers expected a surge in auto-related theft about a decade ago. That’s when the law passed legislation changing how scrap yards report their purchases.

This included the requirement for an electronic database that could help police find Huxton’s car before it was vandalized.

However, an examination of the legislative record shows that these reforms were met with heavy opposition from the scrap industry and were quietly withdrawn despite widespread support from prosecutors and law enforcement.

Anoka County Sheriff Commander Paul Lentzmeier said, “This was a positive step towards the problems we saw.” And we found a solution. Not.”

scrap industry donations

In response to a large auto-theft ring in St. Paul, the state legislature passed a law in 2013 to include a database designed for state pawn shops, now known as the Automated Pawn System (APS). Requires scrap metal recyclers to include daily purchases. .

“We know there are databases that work with pawn shops,” says Lentzmeier. “We know it works with scrap metal.”

Rep. Tim Mahoney (DFL-St. Paul) drafted the law, which he said would help address a future wave of crime, including car theft and catalytic converter theft.

“This may not be an issue in your area today,” Mahoney said in 2013.

Despite that warning, the scrap yard critical requirement was abolished in 2015. This was a year before those companies had to enter their purchases into his APS database.

5 Rep. Marion O’Neill (R-Maple Lake) led the abolition effort a year after it began receiving campaign donations from scrap recyclers and executives, according to INVESTIGATES’ review of campaign finance reports. By then, O’Neill had received $14,000 from the scrap company’s owner, staff, and family.

According to available data from the Minnesota Campaign Finance Commission, she is the only legislator to have signed the bill and reported direct donations from the industry.

O’Neill declined to be interviewed for this article. “The scrap industry was about to be punished for not entering information into a state database that was never built,” O’Neill said in his statement.

Legislative records show that states were still trying to build a system when the law was repealed.

O’Neill said the law still requires photo ID for all transactions. She also pointed to an industry-built database that is “quickly available to any law enforcement agency upon request.”

Police say the database is limited because it hasn’t been updated fast enough for investigators to track stolen parts and cars like the Huxton.

“Positive” steps

Northern Metals paid $201.30 for Huxton’s 2005 Toyota. The company turned back its intake form after the car was already destroyed.

A company spokeswoman declined to comment.

In 2013, Northern Metals was among the companies that opposed including metal recycling in the pawn system, telling lawmakers that it could cost recyclers up to $150,000 a year.

The country’s largest scrap metal recycling trade association claims it is taking “positive” steps to work with law enforcement.

“Our members are all in favor of stopping metal theft, so we always talk to law enforcement and legislators trying to stop theft to figure out the best way to do that. We’re finding them,” said Todd Foreman, the Institute’s director of law enforcement outreach. of the Scrap Recycling Industry (ISRI).

5 In an interview with INVESTIGATES, Foreman also pointed to industry-specific databases, which essentially work in reverse. According to ISRI, police can report stolen items to scrap yards, helping recover more than $3.3 million in property.

In documents obtained by 5 INVESTIGATES, Maple Grove Police said there was not enough evidence to show that anyone “willfully owned or transferred” Huxton’s stolen vehicle.

Ms. Huxton said she had to take a bus for nearly two weeks after her car was stolen. She used up almost all of her savings to buy another car. She is now filing her lawsuit, claiming her car was improperly scrapped.

“I’m not sure how this would actually happen, given that I’ve taken proper steps on how to report my car stolen,” Huxton said.

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