Scrap metal thefts add up

Joshua Vanzee said someone told him he could take the rails left along the railroad track after repairs had been done, according to police.
Becky Vargo
Oct 19, 2013

But the 23-year-old Grand Haven man found out the hard way that the heavy metal lying next to the tracks is not up for grabs.

Although police say metal thefts are not common in the Grand Haven area, there still is some of it going on.

Vanzee entered a no-contest plea to a charge of larceny of less than $200 instead of proceeding with a bench trial that was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in Ottawa County's 58th District Court. Judge Craig Bunce sentenced Vanzee to pay $124 in restitution and $400 in fines and costs, or serve 40 days in jail.

Vanzee told the judge he has a job and asked for time to pay the fine. He was given until Nov. 29.

Vanzee apologized profusely to the judge, police officers and a representative of Mid-Michigan Railroad following the hearing.

Office Jay Paulson of the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety discovered Vanzee and his father, Dirk Vanzee, while on patrol on Aug. 8.

“I saw this car backed up to the railroad trestle off Coho Drive,” Paulson said. “They had cut the back seat out of the car and had a couple rails in there.”

Dirk Vanzee is facing charges of larceny of less than $100 and resisting/obstructing a police officer.

“He took off and ran on me,” Paulson said of the elder Vanzee. “I had to chase him down.”

Paulson said the men planned to sell the metal for scrap. During the court hearing, Joshua Vanzee said he realized now that was the wrong thing to do.

It’s common to see scrappers pulling things out of dumpsters or picking the stuff up on the side of the road, Paulson said. More daring scrappers take metal from factories and abandoned buildings.

“We had a lot of this when scrap prices were up a few years ago,” the officer said.

Ottawa County assistant prosecuting attorney John Scheuerle said his office handled a lot of cases of metal theft during the recent recession.

“Companies are smarter these days," he said. "They take more precautions with their supplies."

Lt. Mark Bennett of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department said they have not handled any scrap metal theft cases recently. However, he noted that 16 new automotive batteries were taken from Downtown Auto in Grand Haven Township at the end of August. Police are still looking for information on what happened to those batteries.

A pricing list on the Sikora Metals Inc. (of Detroit) website, as of Oct. 5, noted they pay $8 each for car or truck batteries.

Spring Lake/Ferrysburg Police Chief Roger DeYoung said metal theft is not a big problem in his community, although there have been a couple of them in recent weeks.

Earlier this week, about $30 worth of scrap metal and nearly $4,000 worth of magnesium pipe were taken from a Ferrysburg business, said Detective Corey Allard of the Spring Lake/Ferrysburg Police Department. Less than a month ago, a 100-foot section of copper welding wire was stolen from a construction site at the West Michigan Academy of Arts and Academics, also in Ferrysburg, Allard said.

A spokesman for West Michigan Recycling in Muskegon said it’s difficult to tell if a piece of metal was stolen, but they do what they can.

“You get to know your customers and that helps,” said employee Al Vandentoorn. “Or, if it looks too new, like it came from a factory, you start asking questions.”

Those people will usually decide to take their metal elsewhere, he said.

“If they see something suspicious, they won’t take it,” Paulson said of recycling companies. “Because, if it becomes part of a police investigation, we get it back and they’re out of money.”

Mid-Michigan Railroad representative Scott Knight said it’s not too often people take 39-foot sections of rail. Scheuerle said the Vanzees used a hacksaw to cut the rail into transportable pieces.

Knight said he appreciates Grand Haven police working with the railroad “to safeguard our property.”

Sample of scrap metal prices from the Sikora Metals Inc. list (as of Oct. 5):

Bare bright copper wire - $2.55/pound
Roofing copper - $2.10/pound
Stainless steel – 40 cents/pound
Aluminum – 60 cents/pound
Brass pipe - $1.50/pound
Die cast – 24 cents/pound
Nickel - $4.25/pound




Truth Be Told

This kid gets busted when 99.9% of stolen metal ends up in Chicago scrap yards ? ( or Detroit )
Everyone knows it.


So, Which is it Detroit, or Chicago?

Do you just pull these stats out of your backside, or, as your hero would say..."do you have links to substantiate those numbers"?

Everyone knows? Really. Lets see your link for that line.

What a tool. You'd be funny if it wasn't so sad.


go troll elsewhere fool. You sound like an uneducated ghetto rat.


YAAUA still being an abusive, rude, online bully. Simply ask TBT for his source instead of your communicative people/soft skills (not) eg gent's Backside? Yes YAAUA. Shame.


YAAUA still being an abusive, rude, online bully. Simply ask TBT for his source instead of your communicative people/soft skills (not) eg gent's Backside? Yes YAAUA. Shame. And stating this diagnosis of LTA twice was appropriate.


Right or wrong, but to call someone a tool? Yes, that is sad. It's sad people have so little respect for one another. Unless you know TBT personally, I suppose. I hope this young man has learned his lesson. He sounds respectful of everyone involved, has a job and is willing to make restitution. That is more than a lot of people in similar Court situations I have read about. It appears the metal scrapping business can be lucrative as long as really is scrap!!


"Right or wrong, but to call someone a tool? Yes, that is sad. It's sad people have so little respect for one another. Unless you know TBT personally, I suppose"

Yup, you're right. I was thinking he was one of the Vlad Fan Club guys, but he's not, he's fairly new so my apologies to you/him as I had the wrong person. Too many guys on here with Truth in the name and none of them seem to know much about it.

I still stand by calling him out for an unsubstantiated statement, will apologise for thinking he was someone else. Next time I'll doublecheck who it is.

I'm watching the Tigers lose so I'm not in the best of spirits.


nobody cares what your doing. Go find a job


Obviously you do you dipstick, not only did you read it, BUT you took the time to comment. Nobody, least of all me, cares what you think.

"You want the truth? can't handle the truth!"



go find a job.


I did my 45 years ya cretin, I'm retired. Maybe you should practice what you preach?



holy cow...another lazy baby boomer sucking up all our resources..keep up the good work. Do you still have skin on your finger tips?


Wow, your an embarassment to the trolls. Good job.


your not doing to bad yourself, keep up the good work you troll in denial


Sorry, I'm all out of mud, you'll have to carry on without me.


not hard when all you have is: troll and tool in your toolbox


"Yup, you're right. I was thinking he was one of the Vlad Fan Club guys, but he's not...."

Selective toolism? Let me get this straight, it's ok to be rude, obnoxious, bullying boorish pig when you respond to post that are submitted by those you disagree with that aren't liberals. Got it.

Better run that past the wife, I think she might be able to help you here!


Leave it to you to miss the point of the post. Least if nothing else you're consistent, always grouping people into either, or piles, because that's as complex a situation as you can deal with? Just askin'.

What you chose to miss (represent) is my apology was for having the wrong person, not group. Just because you can't deal with a one on one discussion doesn't mean the rest of us here have to follow your lead does it?....or don't you agree?

It'd be wonderful if the world was so easy to navigate that everyone was either a jackass or an elephant, but it ain't that way in real life. You should learn to deal with it and not focus so much on those boogy men you see around every corner.

Enjoy your fearful day.


can't fix stupid & lazy


Obviously you would know.....what a dink.


master at work...oh wait, you don't work...just social security

Barry Soetoro

Thanks for posting the latest scrap metal prices. It's apparent that Mr. Vanzee was going after the wrong stuff.


When I barely a teen a fellow we heard was an ex con told a few of us if we brought him tie straps, spikes or whatever we could carry from the RR tracks he'd split the money with us, we questioned if it was legal and he didn’t answer but stressed it's the environmentally right thing to do! We didn't do it and come to find out he was in prison for theft of RR property. A local restaurant owner who was a former Marine officer and interrogator heard the guy was trying to corrupt the local youth so he “asked” the guy to “move on” permanently, no surprises he did, everyone knew you didn’t mess with Cotton aka Melvin Biggs. Playing dumb is no excuse…what did he tell the scrap dealers….”oh the rails and all? their from my railroad I don’t use anymore”


Why don't you guys stick to the article and take your ridiculous arguments someplace else!
It really does get old checking on comments that matter to some of us, and running across
all of your idle nonsense!


I'm thinking it could be settled by bare knuckle boxing in front of the bleachers at the boardwalk!


Sounds like fun! :-)


Dirk and Josh, I hope that you guys are able to get pass this and get back to

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