Bill cracking down on metal theft clears hurdle
U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Charles Schumer (D-NY) and John Hoeven (R-ND) today announced that their bipartisan bill to crack down on the rise in metal theft passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, paving the way for a vote in the full Senate. Metal theft has jumped more than 80% in recent years, as thieves steal high-priced metal from critical infrastructure as well as businesses, homes, churches and even veterans' graves - causing families pain and threatening public safety. The Metal Theft Prevention Act would help crack down on metal thieves and make it harder for them to sell stolen metal. U.S. Congressman Erik Paulsen (R-MN) has introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
"In communities across Minnesota, thieves are targeting public infrastructure, churches, and even taking brass stars from our veterans' graves to make a quick buck," Klobuchar said. "This is an important step forward for this legislation, and I will continue to work with law enforcement and local officials to crack down on metal thieves and make it more difficult for them to sell their stolen goods."
"Thefts and resale of high-priced metals stolen from churches, businesses, and our nation's critical infrastructure has skyrocketed in recent years," said Graham. "Our legislation makes it a federal crime to steal from these sites. It also creates common-sense safeguards to prevent resale without interfering with states' rights to prosecute."
"With the passage of the Metal Theft Act out of the Senate judiciary committee, we are a step closer to putting thieves who steal scrap metal from homes, businesses, infrastructure behind ironclad bars," said Schumer. "This practical plan will combat the rash of metal theft by requiring recyclers to keep detailed documentation of metal purchases, capping the amount of cash recyclers can pay for scrap metal, ensuring that those selling metal are authorized to do so, and by making metal theft a federal crime. I will push for this proposal's full Senate passage, to safeguard families, business owners, and commuters who are endangered by the stripped infrastructure, fires, and financial hit as a result of these crimes."
"What the federal law does is make sure that thieves can't steal metal in one state and sell it in another state, something that has become increasingly common across the nation," Hoeven said. "At the same time, we've worked to craft the bill in a way that it is flexible and responsive and takes into consideration the concerns of businesses and Attorneys General across the country by making sure that state law supersedes federal law in cases of metal theft."
Between 2009 and 2011, the National Insurance Crime Bureau found over 25,000 insurance claims related to metal theft, an increase of 81 percent over claims made between 2006 and 2008. In a study, the U.S. Department of Energy found that the total value of damages to industries affected by the theft of copper wire would likely exceed over $900 million each year.
The Metal Theft Prevention Act calls for enforcement by the Attorney General and gives state attorneys general the ability to bring civil actions to enforce the provisions of the legislation. It also directs the U.S. Sentencing Commission to review penalty guidelines as they relate to metal theft and make sure they are adequate. The bill also makes it an explicit federal crime to steal metal from critical infrastructure.
In addition, the legislation would also make it much tougher for thieves to sell stolen metals to scrap metal dealers. It contains a "Do Not Buy" provision which bans scrap metal dealers from buying certain items unless the sellers establish, by written documentation, that they are authorized to sell the metal in question. As a result of the bill, scrap metal dealers would be required to keep detailed records of metal purchases for two years and make them available to law enforcement agencies. The bill would also require that purchases of scrap metal over $100 be done by check instead of cash, to further help law enforcement track down thieves. Klobuchar introduced similar legislation in the previous Congress.