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Metal theft up 80 percent

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar recently proposed the Metal Theft Prevention Act to underscore the importance of federal action to help fight metal theft.

Metal theft has jumped more than 80 percent in recent years. Thieves steal high-priced metal from critical infrastructure as well as businesses, homes, churches and even Minnesota veterans' graves.

The Metal Theft Prevention Act would help crack down on metal thieves and make it harder for thieves to sell stolen metal. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John Hoeven (R-ND) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) are cosponsors of the Senate bill.

Between 2009 and 2011, the National Insurance Crime Bureau found more than 25,000 insurance claims related to metal theft, an increase of 81 percent over claims made between 2006 and 2008.

In a recent 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 $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 the penalties are adequate.

The bill also makes it an explicit federal crime to steal metal from critical infrastructure.

In addition, the legislation 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 secondary metal in question.

As a result of the bill, scrap metal dealers would be required to keep detailed records of secondary metal purchases for two years and make them available to law enforcement agencies. The bill would also require that purchases of scrap metal more than $100 be done by check instead of cash, to further help law enforcement track down thieves.