Copper thefts, large and small, have lawmakers considering a change in state law. Among the ideas floated by legislators is one that does away with a cash for copper option. Copper thieves have targeted everything from outdoor air conditioning units to electric power substations. State police lieutenant David Jude says it create a major financial hardship, especially for individual Kentuckians.
“The victim of the crime is sometimes out several thousand dollars, sometimes in the neighborhood of a thousand dollars or more depending on the size of the theft that they have. So, when you think about who the victims are of this particular crime, it will let you know that it’s it is a pretty big thing that’s happening in the state,” said Jude.
In response, Lexington representative Bill Farmer has pre-filed legislation that would create a different type of penalty for people convicted of stealing copper. For example, it would force them to replace an air conditioner.
“When they go out and steal one of these units, they get 50 60 bucks out of copper out of it…and this bill changes it to the aggregate replacement or repair cost. If you go out and steal an air conditioning unit, and it cost two thousand dollars to put it back, that becomes a felony and you get to become a guest of the state for about a year, you’re going to prison,” said Farmer.
Legislators are also looking at the business-end of copper theft. Thieves can’t just sell their copper on the street…they must take it to a scrap metal facility. In most cases, it’s a cash-only deal…with few questions asked. Farmer says his legislation would also create a paper trail which could be used by police as then investigate copper theft.
“Right now they’re required to get a copy of the driver’s license, right down the license number and who you are selling it to and all that good stuff. They are going to have to give them an address to mail a check to now..so it’s not gonna be a cash transaction. It’s going to be a check transaction,” added Farmer.
It’s likely Farmer’s bill won’t be the only piece of legislation related to copper theft up for discussion during the 2012 session of the Kentucky General Assembly. State Police Lieutenant David Jude says his agency will certainly be in a position to back some new legislative initiatives.