Eight months after Hesperia began getting tough with metal recycling facilities, the two-man team of sheriff deputies assigned to tackle a pernicious metal theft problem is making progress. But besides providing facility managers and staff with information on new, tougher laws and regulations, the deputies are finding success not through badgering but by partnering.


"We're hoping we can work together to solve this problem," said Deputy Daniel Rodriguez, who alongside metal theft taskforce team partner Deputy Greg Swoboda presented an update on recycling laws to facility personnel on Thursday morning.


"The reason we brought you guys here is not to complain to you, it's to educate you," added Deputy Swoboda. "Our goal is not to hurt your business but to get you into compliance."


And the approach seems to be working.


Recently, the Hesperia Sheriff Station caught a metal theft suspect who is believed to have stolen 26 large air conditioning units from the new Encore Performing Arts School after receiving a tip from A-1 Recycling. Other Hesperia recycling locations are also helping to make a dent in the problem, according to the deputies.


The renewed drive to reduce metal theft began last February when the city sent letters to recycling facilities about updated state, county and city regulations. Additionally, the deputies began performing compliance checks several times a week, or more.


"Sometimes we visit them more than once a day," Deputy Rodriguez said.


During the two-hour presentation, which was held in the city's planning department annex on Main Street near 9th Avenue, Deputy Rodriguez gave a thorough report on new laws and ordinances that could mean substantial fines, or even jail or prison time, to recycling facility workers who break them.


Recycling facilities must take down the names and addresses of recyclers, along with a description of the items brought in. Recyclers also must provide a valid California ID card or driver license. But some people often those attempting to get money for stolen items attempt to pass fake or questionable IDs.


"We at the shop should refuse the customer because that ID puts us at risk," Jed Holley, of A-1 Recycling, said to others in attendance.


Additionally, recycling facilities must keep their records for a minimum of two years, according to an Hesperia ordinance.


Area thefts have cost victims, which include homeowners, businesses, schools, governments and more, many thousands of dollars. And the object of a thief's metal desires could range from a grocery store shopping cart, to a car radiator, copper tubing or more. A-1 Recycling recently caught a thief trying to unload manhole covers stolen in the City of Victorville. With a metal recycling value of about $50, each cover cost a city about $1,700 to purchase.


An increasingly stolen item, according to the deputies, is Romex, a plastic-coated wire commonly used for home electrical wiring. That's because thieves are stealing items from homes abandoned due to foreclosure.


Recycling plant workers were also told to look closely for serial numbers, or those that have been rubbed off.


"If you see something that has grinding marks on it, those were probably serial numbers," Deputy Rodriguez said.


Regulations also mandate recycling plants ask for pink slips when accepting car parts.


Although the team is working on developing close relationships with recycling facility employees, those who don't comply could someday hear about it, either through a citation or even a law enforcement sting operation.


"You guys need to cover yourselves and not accept stolen property," Deputy Rodriguez said.


In the meantime, however, the deputies are working to develop interaction with Hesperia recycling facilities.


"We wanted more of a teamwork thing," Deputy Rodriguez said. "If we're you're a friend, you're more willing to help us."