Thieves try to pawn off pieces of steel from railroad tracks

Thieves are trying to cash in on the high price of metal by bringing in pieces of steel you might not expect to see at scrap shops.

South Bend Police said officers are investigating cases of stolen railroad metals at Omnisource on Prarie Avenue.
Ron Gunderman, the yard manager, said he gets customers trying to sell him stolen goods anywhere from two to six times a week. But now, people are attempting to sell pieces from of railroad steel.
“This amount came from two individuals in the back of a pickup truck. The spikes in here. The angle bars. This is the actual coupling off a railcar itself,” said Gunderman, pulling out the variety of stolen items from a large bin.
To help tackle the problem, Gunderman said his company pays off-duty officers to patrol the grounds and investigate stolen material.
Patrolman Chuck Flanagan said often, the customers who attempt to sell stolen goods tell stories to cover their tracks.
“I had one guy tell me he got some material from an address. And I said well, I’m going to go check that address. And as soon as I get in my car, I’m like, there is no such address!” said Flanagan.
Flanagan added he frequently drives the customer to the location where they claim they got the metals.
“Most of the times, um, it’s a story. Every once in awhile it might be the truth, but usally it’s a story or people tell us they were walking along the railroad and found it laying there!”
But, he said those lies only lead to one place.
“Some of them will continue to lie. Even if it’s a bold faced lie. We’ll threaten them with jail or take them to jail. If they’re going to lie to us, it’s going to be a trip to the county jail, no matter what,” said Flanagan.
Flanagan added many claim they didn’t know the pieces of railroad tracks are government property.
“They say their grandpa or someone had farms. And that the railroad ran through the back of the farm so there hasn’t been any trains on the track for awhile so they just thought they could scrap the material.”
Since officers are on duty all day at Omnisource, Flanagan said thieves often target other scrap yards, instead.
“They know there’s an officer here, from open to close. And if they bring in something questionable, they’re going to be asked about it. So they’re going to take it to other places.”
Flanagan even added that other companies are known for shady business in town.
“Oh we have word that other companies are accepting vehicles without titles, which is a big no no. and we know that that’s going on.,” said Flanagan.
Gunderman said it’s frustrating when the competition plays dirty.  He said he’s proud his employees work hard learn how to inspect stolen pieces of brass, copper, steel, and other metals.
“We try our best to teach our customers to do the right thing. And bring in the right stuff. And we’ll pay very well, accordingly,” said Gunderman.
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