BY KEN LITTLE
A Greeneville man who has allegedly had at least two cars not owned by him towed to recyclers to be crushed for scrap value made his first appearance in court on Friday.
Jeffrey Wayne McKay, 37, of 3670 Snapps Ferry Road, is charged with theft of property valued at between $1,000 and $10,000, and theft of property valued at over $500 but less than $1,000, Detective Lt. Pat Hankins said today.
McKay was taken into custody Thursday in connection with separate incidents involving cars. Charges in relation to another vehicle taken to a scrapyard are pending, Hankins said.
Such thefts are nothing new to police. As the value of scrap metal goes up, the amount being stolen from yards and untended properties around the area has gone up proportionately, Hankins said.
In one case naming McKay as a defendant, the owner of a 1994 Ford Mustang told police he had parked the car in the lot of the Dollar General Market, at 835 E. Andrew Johnson Hwy., after it had mechanical trouble.
The car had been parked in the lot for about two weeks when the owner discovered it missing, the report said.
McKay allegedly called a wrecker service on June 27 "and had the vehicle towed from Dollar General Market to Greeneville Iron & Metals, where the vehicle was crushed," a report said.
McKay did not have permission from the owner to have the car towed and crushed, the report said.
In another incident allegedly involving McKay, an older-model Mercedes sedan owned by a Greeneville man was towed from a rental property owned by the victim off Snapps Ferry Road.
The Mercedes owner was not aware the car had been moved until he drove by West Main Recycling and saw it parked there, Hankins said. The car was recovered intact.
Theft of items containing metal has been a constant problem for area law enforcement agencies, Hankins said.
"It's been pretty bad. Metal prices have been extremely high. They have gone down a lot in the last month-and-a-half," he said. "We have a lot of cars taken to (West Main Recycling) and crushed."
Owners of local recycling businesses are generally cooperative with law enforcement, Hankins said.
Two new state laws that recently went into effect make it a bit easier to stem the tide of vehicle thefts, he said.
The first law requires operators of scrapyards to hold a vehicle for three days before it is crushed.
"Prior to that, they were crushing them immediately," Hankins said.
The second law requires titles for vehicles 12 years old or less before they can be crushed.
The legal requiremement was previously 10 years, Hankins said.
With the recent spike in metal prices, it is not uncommon for old cars to be worth between $400 and $450, Hankins said.
"It's a huge problem that we're having. It has been like that for probably the last two years," he said.
McKay entered a not guilty plea Friday in General Sessions Court and is free on bond, pending an Aug. 20 appearance.