Metal Scrap Theft Ring Targeting St. Louis Trash Bins

It must be true what they say; one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Though it may not sound particularly tragic, St. Louis is evidently gripped by an odd crime wave. The number of scrap metal thefts has skyrocketed across the city and thieves have their eyes on one very common piece of scrap: trash bin hooks. Police say that criminals are searching alleys across St. Louis looking for the metal hooks, something that is costing taxpayers thousands of dollars to fix.

The incidents of trash bin hook theft have jumped especially over the last few months. The problem not only costs money to replace the hooks, but also leads to delays collecting garbage, as the dump trucks are unable to latch onto the trashcan to properly empty it. Though the problem might not seem like such a big deal, such metal theft rings have grown enormously in recent years. The bad economy and rising commodities prices have forced many people to consider stealing metal for even the little amount of money it can bring it.

The treasured bit of metal is made up of two triangle-shaped steel plates with two teeth on the ends that are bolted to the sides of the 30,000 trash, yard waste and recycling bins across the city. The arms of the dump trucks grab the hooks and are then able to lift the bins into the truck to empty them. If the hooks are missing the trash will pile up until repairs have been done to attach new hooks.

The director of trash operations in St. Louis says the recent rash of metal thefts have risen enormously. In a typical year about 100 trash bin hooks are stolen. So far this year the number is over 1,100. Police have said they believe a handful of people are responsible for the vast majority of the thefts and they suspect they are moving around the city with specialized tools to remove the bolts connecting the hooks to the bins.

Each hook costs around $50, but the city has saved money by repairing damaged bins with hooks left over from old trash bins that had been removed in recent years. Despite this saving, the city estimates that the thefts cost about $50 per hook in labor. An even more expensive alternative would be to pay a welder to weld the hooks to the sides of the trash bins. Though it would prevent the petty theft, the time and labor involved would be significant.

The police say that the payoff for the criminals is small, but that apparently hasn’t worked to deter the crime. Each hook weights 22 pounds and would fetch the thief a little more than $2 at a scrap yard.

In response, the police have begun patrolling alleys, checking surveillance cameras and generally keeping a closer eye on scrap yards to see if they can catch those responsible. A new law was passed in January which some hoped would help with the problem as it required those selling scrap metal to show identification. The ordinance will eventually require scrap dealers to create a database of all transactions which will be made available to police. In the mean time, police will be busy keeping a watchful eye on the city’s garbage.

If you’ve had a run in with the law and find yourself in need of a St. Louis criminal defense lawyer capable of fighting for your freedom, don’t hesitate to contact our St. Louis criminal law firm today at (314) 863-0500.

Source:Trash bin hook thefts skyrocketing in St. Louis,” by Joel Currier, published at