New Law Targets Metal Theft in Kentucky

Jun 8, 2011

Among the many new laws taking effect today is one whose purpose is to deter the growing problem of metal theft in Kentucky. House Bill 242 unanimously 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," state Attorney General Jack Conway said in a press release. "Metal theft is not only taking a heavy financial toll on businesses, it is endangering lives and putting communities at risk."

Kentucky's metal theft laws are designed to deter this growing problem by targeting thieves who steal and then resell secondary metals. House Bill 242 prohibits anyone from buying or selling metal that has been smelted, burned or melted.

Metal theft costs businesses nationally about $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," Rep. Mike Denham, Vice Chairman of the Agriculture and Small Business Committee and sponsor of House Bill 242, said. "I am hopeful this new law will help stop these thefts and better protect our communities and our businesses, both large and small."

Kentucky 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 of 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 of 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."

Kentucky and other states require scrap-metal dealers to keep detailed and extensive records of their transactions in an electronic format, including the seller's photograph, signature and their vehicle's information. In addition, penalties for damaging a communication or utility facility or interrupting services can include a felony conviction carrying prison time and heavy fines.