The state Senate on Monday approved legislation intended to curb the growing problem of copper theft. Senate Bill 1856, authored by Sen. Cliff Branan, is a comprehensive measure that includes increased fines and punishments for the crime of copper theft and requires more stringent record keeping from scrap metal and junk dealers.
Branan said the measure provides Oklahoma law enforcement with much-needed tools to combat a crime epidemic affecting citizens throughout the state.
“The increasing value of copper has made it a valuable commodity, and subsequently an attractive target for criminals,” said Branan, R-Oklahoma City. “This is a crime happening throughout the state, and it’s costing our citizens hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages each year. It was important that we pass this law to give law enforcement the additional tools needed to track down copper thieves and reduced instances of the crime.”
The bill requires that scrap metal dealers keep records of information obtained from sellers, including a photo copy of the seller’s driver’s license and vehicle tag number. The measure also clarifies penalties regarding failure to keep records required by law.
Branan explained that the crime of copper theft often places entire families and communities at risk.
“People are stealing copper from telephone equipment, railroad signals and out from under the hoods of vehicles – this places the victims, and in many cases entire communities, at risk,” Branan said. “Copper has been stolen from electrical substations, causing entire power grids to be knocked out. Not even church buildings and gravestones have been spared by copper thieves.”
“It was absolutely critical that we address this issue with comprehensive legislation this year, and I’m pleased the measure will be advancing to the Governor’s desk.”