Thursday, August 15, 2013
As law enforcement officials and prosecutors continue to look for new ways to combat copper theft, they may recommend state legislators change state law to require metal scrappers to track all of their business.
Some Wichita recyclers think that's a good idea.
"You just really have to care about it and know the law," ABC Recycling office manager Lani Duvall said.
The law, at least in Wichita, requires companies like ABC Recycling to keep track of who they're buying metal from in an effort to take away the market for stolen copper and other metals.
"They've got to have a license plate number," Duvall said. "They have to have a driver's license or some sort of ID. They have to sign off on it. We write them a check."
Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said it may be time to look at enacting those requirements for all Kansas metal recyclers. He compared it to the state law that moved pseudoephedrine drugs behind pharmacy counters.
"When they did that and when Oklahoma did that, our meth labs went down," Bennett said. "I mean it was overnight. It was a huge, measurable success."
Bennett believes the industry will support any changes in state law aimed at reducing copper thefts.
"The legitimate businesses are interested in cleaning up their industry," he said. "But the problem they have is, 'If I don't buy it, then the guy down the road will and he'll put me out of business.'"
Duvall agrees with having all recyclers in the state play by the same rules.
"That way Valley Center people or Wellington people are doing the same thing we are," she said. "That in and of itself would be a huge deterrent to any thief. Where are they going to sell it?"
However, she also hopes any change in state law also includes tougher penalties for stealing copper.
"There needs to be fear instilled in these people that they are going to get caught and there are going to be consequences," she said. "Not that they're going to get probation for the upteenth time."