FRANKFORT -- A new law took effect Wednesday, to deter the growing problem of metal theft in Kentucky.
House Bill 242, sponsored by Rep. Mike Denham, and cosponsored by State Rep. Jill York, 96th District Lewis and Carter counties, directs recycling centers and scrap yards to require signed proof of ownership or authorization to sell any metals that have been smelted, burned or melted.
The bill passed both houses of the Kentucky General Assembly during the 2011 legislative session and was signed into law by Gov. Steve Beshear on March 16.
"Near-record prices for copper, platinum, aluminum and other metals have fueled the theft of common items such as copper wiring from utility lines, tornado warning sirens, coal mines and even foreclosed homes," said Attorney General Jack Conway. "Metal theft is not only taking a heavy financial toll on businesses, it is endangering lives and putting communities at risk."
According to Conway, metal thefts costs businesses nationally around $1 billion each year, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage. It can also affect public safety by compromising communications or emergency response capabilities, such as 911 service.
"Metal theft is a major concern across the commonwealth," said Denham. "I am hopeful this new law will help stop these thefts and better protect our communities and our businesses, both large and small."
Businesses like AT&T also welcome the new law and attribute the increase in metal theft to a number of factors, including the ailing economy.
"The steady rise in the market price for copper and the state of the economy have led some people to extreme measures, including stealing copper cables from houses and telephone poles," said Mary Pat Regan, president AT&T Kentucky. "This new law will help us prevent the theft of copper wire from AT&T telephone poles, work centers and cell sites, which puts our customers and sometimes entire communities out of service."
House Bill 242 also partners with legislation passed in 2008 by the General Assembly that further restricts scrap sellers to get away without being identified.
The legislation, House Bill 106, was sponsored by Rep. Mike Denham and enacted as law in July 2008 and expanded legal provisions to combat not only copper theft, but all non-ferrous metals. Non-ferrous metals as those not containing steel.
Under the bill, all recyclers and scrap dealers are required to photocopy the identification of sellers along with recording the license plate number of the vehicle they were using to deliver the metals. The details of each transaction would be logged, with the records available for inspection by law enforcement as necessary.
The bill also requires dealers to maintain records on transactions for two years and they cannot buy from anyone under the age of 18. The new law expanded which law enforcement agencies may inspect records; previous legislation gave this power to only the sheriff's office, but the new law expands that to include local police departments and Kentucky State Police agencies.