Bennett Begins Push For New Metal Theft Law

By: Phil White Email
By: Phil White Email

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Local leaders have begun work on what they hope will turn into legislation that will reduce metal thefts in Kansas.

In August, Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said he thought it was time for Kansas to pass new laws that make all metal salvagers follow the same regulations. This week, he took his plan a step further by hosting a meeting to brainstorm possible statewide solutions to one of Kansas' top crimes.

"Copper theft is the biggest non-violent crime we're affected with in our area," Wichita City Councilman Jeff Blubaugh said.

Blubaugh was one of several local leaders, farmers, property owners and business owners who attended a meeting Wednesday to discuss possible laws that might reduce the number of metal thefts in Kansas. It is a crime Blubaugh has experienced first-hand.

"We own rental homes," he said. "We don't even put our For Rent sign in front of our homes any more because it's so common to, as soon as you put that sign up, someone's stealing the air conditioner unit."

Bennett believes the best way to cut down on a crime that can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage each time it is committed is to require all metal salvagers to keep track of who sells them scrap metal.

"The goal here really is to work with the good businesses to vet out ones who are maybe skating the edges a little bit more and work with the good businesses to improve the entire industry," he said.

State Sen. Michael O'Donnell is confident there will be broad support in topeka for any legislation that can fight a crime that affects so many people.

"I know this is going to be widely accepted in the legislature and I know the governor will be supportive of it as well," O'Donnell said.

Bennett's goal is to make sure legislators have a workable solution before next year's session even begins.

"Everything sounds good in your head until you say it out loud and someone else goes, 'But what about? What about?'" Bennett said. "Then you think, 'Oh, yeah. I should've thought about that beforehand.' I don't want to set anyone up for failure and I don't want to give anyone false hope."

Bennett plans to host more meetings -- including meetings with salvagers -- in order to come up with a law that has the best chance of solving the problem without placing too many burdens on businesses.

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