The city of Columbus is continuing its fight against the theft of scrap metal by giving police electronic access to pawn shops and other businesses that deal in second-hand goods.

The city of Columbus is continuing its fight against the theft of scrap metal by giving police electronic access to pawn shops and other businesses that deal in second-hand goods.

City council on March 26 approved spending $64,400 to extend its contract with Leads-Online, an electronic reporting system for all pawn shops and scrap-metal dealers in Columbus. The program also provides nationwide access to transaction information, reports and searches.

The contract extension is good news for residents of German Village, where thefts of two wrought-iron gates were reported last week, said resident Jerry Glick, who is involved in various neighborhood safety issues.

It's not the first time the gates, some of which lift right off the hinges, have been the target of thieves, Glick said.

After a rash of air-conditioning unit thefts last year, the city, with the cooperation of local scrap yards, declared a one-month moratorium on the sale of air-conditioning units and parts, which resulted in a drastic decline in thefts, said George Speaks, assistant director of public safety for the city.

In 2007, the city was the first to have an ordinance that regulated the sales of scrap metal. The legislation was later used as a template for the Ohio Revised Code regulation. However, Columbus law mandates electronic reporting on all sales of scrap metal in the city.

"And this has proved vital in solving scrap-metal thefts," Speaks said.

Speaks said he represents Columbus on a consortium composed of law-enforcement groups and private industries looking to develop a statewide database for all scrap-metal facilities.

"If everyone was doing that, folks wouldn't have that ability" to sell stolen material, he said.

City attorney Richard C. Pfeiffer Jr. agreed with Speaks' assessment.

"Until we see an effective and uniform statewide law similar to what Columbus has, there will be avenues of escape for thieves who work their evil in our city, yet sell the wares of that evil in another jurisdiction," he said.