Klobuchar Introduces Bill to Stop Metal Theft

Posted at: 11/27/2012 10:43 PM
Updated at: 11/27/2012 10:48 PM
By: Steph Crock

(ABC 6 News) -- We've seen a lot of it in our area and now a U.S. Senator hopes to crack down on the rise of scrap metal theft. There's been almost too many to count, communities in our area seeing high-priced metals taken from homes, businesses, and even right off the street. Just recently Austin Police arrested a man for trying to sell a manhole cover.

It's an issue that Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar says is not only a crime, it's downright dangerous in some cases. Many going to great lengths to get their hands on high-priced metal. That's why she's working at the national level to stop it.

"We get a lot of emails coming across, looking for stolen material," said manager Nick Frazer. He says law enforcement agencies are constantly contacting his company, Behr Iron and Metal, telling them to be on the lookout for stolen metal.

"We don't want to buy any stolen metal any more than anyone else," said Frazer. Which is why they're following all the steps to catch these crooks in their tracks. "There are laws that are already passed that require us not to buy with cash. Anything over a certain amount, we have to pay by check. We're already required to look at ID''s," said Frazer.

A good start, but this problem doesn't just happen in Leroy. That's why Senator Amy Klobuchar has proposed a bill that'll make procedures like these, a federal requirement from scrap metal dealers.

"We've seen an 80% increase in metal theft across the country and a lot of this is because of the value of the stolen items, and you've seen it right there in Rochester," said Sen. Klobuchar.

Rochester just had 1,200 feet of copper wire stolen from a construction site this month, and we’ve seen similar thefts in Austin. "We do see more often where it’s the copper pipe, where people are picking that up or wire, and getting large sums of money," said Austin Police Chief Brian Krueger.

"For copper, you're talking 2-3 bucks a pound, just about anything people can get their hands across. They can range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars," said Frazer.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates copper wire theft totals about $900 million a year in damages, but the issue goes beyond that. "We've had people die in many instances across the country where homes have actually blown up because the wiring has been stolen, so this isn't just an issue of money, it's also an issue of life or death," said Sen. Klobuchar.

Another part of that bill would require dealers to track their sales and make those records available to law enforcement. We'll keep you posted on what happens.