Okla. Senate Approves Measure Intended to Reduce Copper Theft

April 18, 2007

A measure intended to curb the growing problem of copper theft in Oklahoma recently moved one step closer to becoming law. The full Senate voted in favor of House Bill 1399, which would require junk dealers to maintain detailed records regarding the source of the copper they obtain for resale.

Senate author Cliff Branan explained that increases in copper theft have had far-reaching implications for Oklahomans.

“This problem has grown to a point where it puts numerous people at risk,” said Branan, R-Oklahoma City. “Thieves have been stealing copper from car engines, from air conditioning units and electrical substations. Copper theft has even threatened to bring down power grids.”

Branan noted that copper theft has increased exponentially in recent years due to its rising value.

“In the past several years, the value of copper has increased dramatically,” Branan said. “Along with that increase, it’s become easier to sell and easier to market. This has resulted in a climate where theft is now a problem, and we need to establish serious penalties to address the issue.”

House Bill 1399, authored by Rep. Guy Liebmann, R-Oklahoma City, would require junk dealers to keep a record book with photo identification of the seller, as well as vehicle descriptions and license plate numbers of the seller. Additionally, junk dealers would be required to hold purchased copper for a period of 10 days before re-selling it.

The measure also increases penalties for junk dealers who violate the provisions. Fines for first offenses would be increased from $50 to $500, and potential jail time would be increased from 30 days to six months. Second violations would be punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 or prison time of up to two years.

The legislation establishes a “no buy list” that prohibits junk dealers from purchasing items such as manhole covers, funeral markers, copper coil from heating or air conditioning units, streets signs and catalytic converters without obtaining proof of ownership.

“Thieves have been going to incredible lengths to get their hands on copper, and it’s had consequences for many Oklahomans,” Branan said. “With these provisions in place, hopefully fewer Oklahomans will have to worry about copper being stolen from the funeral vase of a loved one, their vehicle’s engine or their air conditioner. It’s important that this bill be signed into law, giving law enforcement another tool to crack down on this growing problem.”

The bill also prohibits junk dealers from paying in cash for any transaction in excess of $25. Dealers would have to pay by check, bank draft or other legal means for such transactions. Branan noted this provision would allow authorities to more easily track copper sales.

The measure advanced to the House for consideration.

Source: Oklahoma Senate

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