Forklifts the Latest Target of Scrap Metal Thieves

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Photo courtesy of Wayne Wilkinson via Wikimedia Commons

You may have heard of thieves stealing copper wire and aluminum gutters from abandoned homes and selling them for scrap metal.

But some scrap metal thieves now have their eyes on a bigger prize: Forklifts and forklift parts.

The theft of forklifts and forklift parts that can be quickly resold in scrap metal yards is on the rise. Given their heavy weight and the rising price of iron, they make an ideal target for some scrap metal thieves.

In a recent incident, William H. Darling, 37, of Grand Rapids, was charged in connection with the theft of a forklift valued at $15,000 from Printech Instant Ads, in Wyoming, Michigan, last September. He then allegedly sold the forklift to a Grand Rapids salvage yard for $1,500.

Darling was captured by police after a business owner in Ottawa County saw him leaving a job site with his forklift. He was charged with larceny between $1,000 and $20,000 and is a suspect in several other area forklift thefts.

Scrap Metal Thefts on the Rise

While not all scrap metal thieves are daring enough to attempt to steal a multi-ton forklift in broad daylight, the theft of metal objects from copper pipes to manhole covers is on the rise.

In fact, in Michigan a new state law now requires scrap metal dealer to photograph scrap metal that is brought to them for sale. The idea is to make it less attractive for scrap metal thieves.

Yet with the price of copper rising and scrap metal dealers paying about 8 cents per pound for iron, there is still a motivation for thieves.

Forklift Parts Targeted

Iron parts from forklifts also make a good target for scrap metal thieves. Because of their heavy weight, the can fetch a hefty payout from scrap metal dealers.

But a pair of thieves in Tacoma, Washington, learned the hard way that selling stolen forklift parts for scrap metal doesn’t pay.

Steve Glucoft, general manager of Calbag Metals, said a pair of men sold forklift parts at his scrap metal yard last September. When workers learned that the parts had been stolen, they called police.

Investigators reviewed surveillance videos and identified the men. And the next time they showed up to the scrap metal yard to sell their wares, employees stalled the pair until police could arrive.

“Our employees use whatever measures they need,” Glucoft said. “They say the cash machine is broken, or this truck broke down and you have to sit here a minute. Whatever it takes to keep the guy here.”

Bold Thieves

James Childs owns a scrap metal yard in Wyoming, Michigan. Even though he earns his livelihood buying scrap metal, Childs said he is not immune to being a victim himself, having had his own forklift stolen. Darling has been charged in that theft.

“It’s one of those things you park outside, you see it everyday, you go by and today I needed to use it,” Childs said “So I ask all my employees, did you move the Hi-Lo? We go out and learn it’s gone.”

Stealing a forklift in broad daylight is daring, but not impossible, he added.

“I’m in an industrial area, so a neighbor across the street may not think anything about a truck pulling up in here,” Childs said. “They just pull up to the back of it, put a wench on it and just dragged it right up on the trailer. If someone has their logo on it, they may rough it up and take the logo off.”


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