The cost and inconvenience of licensing scrap buyers and sellers in Lexington would be small compared with the damage being done by metal thieves.
Yes, it's a shame when law abiding citizens and businesses have to pay for the crimes of a few. But law abiding citizens and businesses are already paying when they become victims of metal thefts.
Lexington police estimate the damage from copper and other metal thefts at $5.7 million during a recent 14-month period. Even property owners who escape the metal thieves pay because the damage drives up insurance premiums.
As best we can tell, just about every legitimate seller of metal would be exempt from having to get a license under the proposed ordinance.
Many businesses and industries generate scrap metal in the routine course of business, and, with a little paperwork, could obtain their exemptions. Also, anyone could sell metal twice a year without a license.
Sellers not covered by one of the many proposed exemptions could obtain a license at one of Lexington's three scrap dealers or the police department at a cost of $30 for individuals and $150 for businesses. License applicants would have to present a government-issued photo ID.
The idea is that thieves would not register for a license and, with no place to sell their loot, would quit ruining $10,000 air conditioning units for $100 worth of copper.
The council and police should work to accommodate the people who push shopping carts around town picking up aluminum cans and other discarded scrap to sell for recycling, but who may not have photo IDs. They're performing a service.
The proposed ordinance would impose greater recordkeeping obligations and a $500 annual license fee on scrap dealers. The fee would help pay for a database to help police better track metal thefts and sales.
Scrap dealers say the city should wait to see how a new state law aimed at cracking down on metal thieves works before enacting a stricter local ordinance.
But it's not unusual for Lexington to enact higher standards than the state; in fact, it's why Lexington is one of Kentucky's most desirable places to live and do business.