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Friday, April 4, 2014

Illegal Scrapping in Saint Paul

Submitted by Councilmember Amy Brendmoen, Ward 5 

We've all seen scrappers driving through neighborhoods with piles of junk heaped on a truck bed. Some of us have even taken advantage of the "service" scrappers provide--put out an old appliance and POOF! it’s gone by daybreak. Unfortunately, the practice of scrapping can also be a nuisance, especially when conducted illegally at a property near your home. Often, scrapping illegally is correlated with other illegal and nuisance behaviors. The recession and rise in the prices fetched by certain metals has exacerbated the problem in recent years. 

Working with constituents impacted by scrappers has increased my awareness of this complex issue. A “Quick Guide to Illegal Scrapping” below is what I have learned about how we address the issue today. The city will continue to monitor illegal scrapping and, if needed, find additional ways to ensure the peace and security of our Saint Paul neighborhoods.

What is "scrapping"? 
Scrapping is the practice of making money by collecting and disassembling old or inoperable items and selling the scrap metal to be reprocessed/recycled.

Is it legal? 
Collecting and reprocessing metal for profit is considered a Recycling Business under the law. A Recycling Business requires a license according to Chapter 357 of the Saint Paul Administrative Code. If conducted without a license, scrapping is most likely illegal. Furthermore, hauling solid waste as part of a business requires a Commercial Vehicle License, also detailed in Chapter 357.  In addition, Recycling Collection and Processing Centers are allowed only in areas zoned for industrial uses within the City of Saint Paul under Chapter 408 of the code. 

Scrapping can have a negative impact on the neighboring community, which is why licensed Recycling Businesses are required to follow the regulations outlined in Chapter 357 and 408. Scrapping is often related to additional City Code violations such as noise, dumping, exterior maintenance (such as scrap/trash in the yard), parking, zoning, etc. Scrapping may also be related to criminal activity such as theft.

To view requirements and apply for a Recycling Processing Center or Recycling Collection Center license, visit www.stpaul.gov/dsi and look up business licenses, or call the Department of Safety and Inspections (DSI) at 651-266-8989. 

If you suspect illegal scrapping
Please report issues related to scrapping to the Department of Safety and Inspections at (DSI) 651-266-8989 or fill out an online complaint at www.stpaul.gov (select 'I want to' and 'Ask a question or make a complaint'). 

If there is an urgent concern outside of business hours (such as noise), call the Saint Paul Police non-emergency line at 651-291-1111. As always, if there is an emergency, dial 911. 

What happens when I make a complaint? 
Because each instance of illegal scrapping is unique and a variety of violations may be determined, different enforcement tools are used depending on the situation. If code violations are discovered, property owners will receive an "Order to Abate." Generally, this notice allows the property owner a period of time to clean-up the nuisance or the City of Saint Paul will abate the nuisance and will bill the property owner for the cost of the clean-up, plus an administrative fee. 

If DSI Inspectors suspect criminal behavior, the police will be notified and a criminal tag may be given. If the city (DSI or Police) is forced to return to the property multiple times, the property owner may be issued an Excessive Consumption of City Services fee. 

If illegal and nuisance behavior persists, you may work with the Saint Paul Police FORCE Unit to address the ongoing nuisance in the neighborhood. Police leadership contact information, including FORCE Unit Commanders, can be found at www.stpaul.gov/police or call the Communications Center at 651-291-1111.

You can also contact the Mayor or City Council offices. Contacts for specific elected officials can be found at www.stpaul.gov under ‘Government,’ or call 651-266-8989 and ask to be connected.

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