Bill Cracks Down on Metal Theft

Last weeks brazen yet ultimately unsuccessful attempt by thieves to yank copper wire out of ten street lights along a busy Olympia highway -- causing $5000 worth of damage -- was one more reminder that metal theft continues to be a significant problem for contractors utilities government agencies and others. According to insurance industry data 25000 insurance claims due to metal theft were filed in 2012 alone.

To combat metal theft AGC is backing legislation (ESHB 1552) introduced by Rep. Roger Goodman of Kirkland. Goodman leads an informal Metal Theft Work Group composed of scrap industry law enforcement utility representatives and other stakeholders. The bill is based on this groups recommendations.

Weve tried criminal penalties but the problem has gotten worse said Goodman. This is a problem of markets. The market is insufficiently regulated.

The bill:

  • Creates a scrap metal license for scrap metal businesses.
  • Expands criminal penalties for metal theft and malicious mischief.
  • Allows for civil forfeiture for any property used in the commission of a crime involving the theft trafficking or unlawful possession of commercial metal property.
  • Creates a database by which scrap metal businesses may determine if a potential customer has a criminal conviction which makes him or her ineligible to sell property to a licensed business.
  • Establishes a grant program to support special law enforcement emphasis targeting metal theft.

The bill passed the House and awaits further action in the State Senate.