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Kansas City cracks down on junkyards

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

The Kansas City Council is tackling the rising theft of older vehicles that are occurring in part because of a Missouri law adopted in 2012.

Kansas City is trying to put the brakes on the matter with a new ordinance putting tighter restrictions on junkyards, which is where many of the stolen vehicles land. But some scrap metal companies oppose the change.

Supporters say some of the community's most vulnerable families are being hurt, and something must be done.

"We've had cases where people's cars are being removed from their driveways, from stores or even the side of the highways when they're broken down," said Kansas City Police Department detective Chris Krueger. "In one certain case, within 14 minutes of it crossing the scales, the car was crushed."

Investigators noticed the problem when a spike in stolen cars 10 years old or older was reported. The cars were never recovered. Some 2,600 vehicles have been reported stolen, and 70 percent of them fit that criteria.

Detectives said there have been several incidents when stolen cars were taken, towed to metal recyclers around the city and quickly crushed.

"We've seen an explosion of the theft of older motor vehicles since the unwise change in state law that went into effect August 2012," said Kansas City Councilman John Sharp.

Missouri law allows you to tow away an inoperable car 10 years old or older without the title. In an effort to curb the thefts, the Kansas City Council unanimously approved an ordinance that mandates metal recyclers hold most vehicles for three days before they can be crushed. The hope is that, with more time, investigators will find the stolen cars before they're scrapped.

Not everyone supports the ordinance. Midwest Scrap Metal says it already does everything it can to stop possible thieves, including reporting VIN numbers to law enforcement.

It doesn't see a need for the ordinance and said the extra hold time could be bad for business.

"The ordinance will have several negative effects. First, you'll see there's no room for all the cars. But, most importantly, you'll have people who won't bring in cars to Midwest Scrap because they'll have to wait three days to get paid," Midwest Scrap's Steve Aaron told KCTV5. "They'll go to other cities, and across the state line, as opposed to coming in here. That means Kansas City loses tax revenue."

City officials say they're more concerned with protecting citizens.

"When you have an older car, you're probably not rolling in dough. This is the car you rely on to take your kids to the babysitter, to go shopping, to go to work, and now, you've had it stolen," Sharp said. "And, before you even know it's been stolen, it's already been crushed."

The hold would not apply for vehicles a registered owner tries to scrap.

Violators would be subject to a minimum fine of $200 for a first offense.

The ordinance goes into effect next week. 

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