Charles County Sheriff Troy D. Berry is pleased to recognize CCSO Detective Jennifer McKenzie and Sgt. Jon Burroughs for their work in this year’s legislative process, during which two legislative proposals they suggested were subsequently passed into law. One bill prohibits scrap metal dealers from paying money for cell tower batteries to unauthorized persons, and the other bill allows Charles County Commissioners to adopt county code to require towing companies to be regulated by permits.

“At the beginning of each legislative session, we ask our employees to make suggestions that would improve policing techniques, reduce criminal activity and/or enhance quality of life issues,” said Sheriff Berry. “Our Executive Command staff reviews each proposal and, after thorough vetting and upon agreement, we prepare the proposals for review by legislators.”

House Bill 198 – From 2015 through 2016, Detective McKenzie, a 14-year-veteran assigned to the Property Crimes Division, noticed batteries from cell towers were being stolen and sold to scrap dealers at an alarming rate. McKenzie, who specializes in tracking stolen goods, recognized the need for better regulation among scrap dealers who purchase batteries. “The batteries were being sold for pennies on the dollar to scrap metal dealers,” McKenzie said. “Much like catalytic converters, trying to determine if the batteries were actually stolen is a bit difficult. We wanted to make it harder for thieves to steal the batteries and sell them quickly.”

In preparing the proposal, Detective McKenzie researched the number of thefts and provided the value of the batteries as well as what scrap dealers were paying. The batteries cost phone companies $800 – $1,200 each, and scrap dealers paid $30-$40 for the metals. Detective McKenzie testified before Maryland legislators, and due to her efforts, House Bill 198 was passed. HB 198 adds cell tower batteries as a prohibited item to scrap at licensed scrap metal dealers, auto dismantlers, recyclers, and scrap processors, with the exception of those who are allowed to by contract and by law, i.e. Sprint or Verizon.

Stolen cell tower batteries in back of pick-up truck

Cell tower batteries at scrap dealer (to the right on flatbed truck)

House Bill 1320 – This bill was initiated by Sgt. Burroughs, a 17-year-veteran of the CCSO and current supervisor of the Traffic Operations Unit, who recognized a need for legislation that would create towing regulations in Charles County. Through his experience, as well that of his colleagues, Sgt. Burroughs noticed several towing companies were preying on citizens by towing their vehicles at targeted locations and then charging exorbitant amounts of money for the towing and storage. “We recognized a need to regulate these companies, and this bill does just that,” said Sheriff Berry.

Because of his research, Sgt. Burroughs testified before legislators in Annapolis and in March, HB 1320 was passed. “This House Bill is the first step in ensuring oversight and regulation on towing operations within Charles County.  This bill enjoyed the full support of the Towing & Recovery Professionals Of Maryland and will enhance existing laws by providing a regulatory body,” said Sgt. Burroughs.  This particular law, which is only applicable in Charles County because of Code Home Rule, will allow the Charles County Commissioners to adopt County Code governing the operation and permitting of tow trucks within Charles County.

“Suggesting legislation is a tedious process that requires research and answers. I am extremely proud of our employees who take an interest in enhancing laws that help our crime fighting efforts,” said Sheriff Berry. Both laws become effective on October 1, 2017.