Although it has recovered more than $7 million in stolen goods in the past 16 months, funding for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Industrial Plastic Theft Task Force is due to expire this month, officials said Friday.
Based at the sheriff’s Industry Station, the five-person task force is the first of its kind targeting the theft of trademarked plastic goods.
Since its inception in September 2011, task force members have made 65 arrests – all but one resulting in felony charges – and shut down 28 locations where pilfered plastics were being stored or ground up for recycling, deputies said.
Plastic thefts have become a major problem for Southland business, officials said. With plastic selling for about 15 cents a pound, thieves see milk crates, pallets and bread trays as a quick source of cash. They sell them to local recyclers, who then ground them into pellets that are often shipped to Asian plastics manufacturers.
It is not uncommon for the pilfered plastic to end up being resold to the victimized companies.
“Some companies will go out of business because of the thefts. They can’t sustain it,” said Capt. Michael Claus, who heads the sheriff’s Industry Station.