Copper Theft Dampened by New Law

SAN DIEGO, CALIF.: A state law in California has put the kibosh on copper theft, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. The law, which took effect last December, requires scrap metal dealers to get a photo ID from sellers and to delay payment for three days, then pay only by check. It also requires recyclers to photograph bulk metal items and get a seller’s thumbprint.

The law was passed at the behest of farmers, whose irrigation systems were getting hit hard by copper thieves. They weren’t alone however. Copper was being stripped from broadcast transmission facilities, construction projects, phone lines, traffic signal wiring and even bronze sculptures. At least one thief was electrocuted while attempting to steal power lines.

Copper theft boomed over the last couple of years as the metal hit a high last year of around $4 a pound, double what it was in 2006. Copper currently trades at around $2.50.

TV transmitter sites were popular with thieves because they’re typically isolated and often unmanned. Several stations were relieved of thousands of dollars worth of copper wire over the last 18 months.

California authorities told the Union-Tribune that copper theft in the state had plummeted since the law went into affect. Only a few cases have been reported in the agricultural region so far this year.
(TVB was alerted to this story by Bob Gonsett’s CGC Communicator)

PreviousTVB copper theft coverage:
September 11, 2008: “Copper Thieves Hit West Virginia Tower Site
WOWK-TV in Huntington, W.V. reported that nearly $40,000 worth of copper piping was stolen from a local TV tower site. The site belongs to Clear Channel Communications, which was hit for about $7,000 worth. Another tower occupant, Daystar Television, was relieved of copper pipe valued at nearly $30,000