Feb 27 2013

Graham, Klobuchar, Schumer, Hoeven Reintroduce Bipartisan Bill to Crack Down on Rise in Metal Theft

Legislation would crack down on thieves and make it harder for them to sell stolen metal

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Charles Schumer (D-NY) and John Hoeven (R-ND) today reintroduced bipartisan legislation in the new Congress to crack down on the growing problem of metal theft. 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.


“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.”


“In communities across Minnesota, thieves are stealing high-priced metal from public infrastructure, churches, and even taking brass stars from our veterans’ graves. These crimes are costing businesses thousands of dollars, threatening public safety, and causing families real pain,” Klobuchar said.  “This legislation will crack down on metal thieves, helping put them behind bars and make it more difficult for them to sell their stolen goods.”


“It is time to put thieves who steal scrap metal from homes, businesses, infrastructure – and even veterans’ graves – 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. This proposal will 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,” Hoeven said. “ At the same time, we’ve worked to craft the bill so that it is flexible and responsive and takes into consideration the concerns of businesses and Attorneys General across the country by ensuring that state law will supersede federal law in the case of metal thefts.”


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 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 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, Graham and Schumer introduced similar legislation in the previous Congress.