Men charged with cutting up railroad tracks for scrap

Two men are charged with malicious damage to property, after police say they tried to cut up some railroad tracks and sell as scrap.

Carolina Southern Railroad officials say the rails were unused and lying next to tracks near Hucks Road in Conway. This isn't the first time thieves have tried to steal some of the railroad's unused tracks, but officials say it hasn't happened for a couple of years.

They say destruction of their property isn't their only concern, they also worry that someone could get hurt.

"It is extremely heavy, it can be extremely dangerous, especially if you don't know what you're doing, which most people do not know what they're doing," said Jason Pippin, Carolina Southern Railroad.

Pippin says police and neighboring property owners have been good about spotting and reporting track thefts.

With prices soaring for scrap metal, railroad tracks aren't the only things thieves are trying to steal for recycling.

Horry County is looking at drawing up new rules for recyclers, to keep better track of items brought in for scrap.

One suggestion is to have recycling companies photograph every item, record it in a database and hang on to it for a few days before it's destroyed.

But one scrap yard owner says, those kind of requirements would be a nightmare.

The scrap metal that comes into Waccamaw Metal Recycling doesn't stay long. It's quickly processed and shipped out.

Horry County is looking at rules for better record-keeping of scrap metals, after an Horry County resident had some family heirlooms stolen and then crushed at a scrap yard before his family even knew about it.

"We do have regulations currently in the State of South Carolina and Horry County when it comes to pawn shops and he was interested in the county doing some additional research to see if something like that would be regulated or put on metal recycling facilities," said Lisa Bourcier, Horry County's public information officer.

But Waccamaw Metal's owner says his business already videotapes every transaction and requires a picture I.D. from anyone who brings scrap in to sell.

"We have a record of their transaction and at any time we can go back in any chronological order for as long as the computers have been intact, and we can pull up the transaction that anybody has had here," said Jeffrey Rogers, Waccamaw Metal Recycling.

Rogers says the sale of stolen items for scrap is a nationwide problem and in South Carolina, the industry is working with lawmakers to come up with solutions.

But with his business doing 200 transactions a day, he says recording every scrap item and holding it for 3 days would be a disaster.

"We would almost have to double our labor to be able to hold and store this inventory before it could be processed. So it would create nightmares for us," Rogers said.

Rogers says new laws for cracking down on stolen scrap metal would be OK, as long as they're comprehensive and work for every county, not just Horry.