State law should require record of copper source
State law enforcement agencies have called for a requirement that scrap dealers record the source of copper that might have been stolen.
AGGRESSIVE action is needed to put a lid on the increasing theft of copper
, caused by the metal's soaring price worldwide. At the risk of becoming unwitting fences for stolen copper, scrap dealers in Hawaii have neglected to follow the cautionary measures recommended by their national trade association. That practice creates a need for a state law requiring their diligence in preventing the crime.
The Hawaii Law Enforcement Coalition, comprised of the state's police chiefs, county prosecutors and attorney general, is urging the Legislature to make theft of copper a felony. The proposal also would require scrap dealers to see records of the copper's source, either by receipt or by notarized statement from the seller.
Some recyclers may oppose the legislation because of the inconvenience it would create. One dealer told KITV News that most people lack receipts indicating their source of the copper they are selling and don't want to hassle with notarized statements.
Identification of copper sellers is crucial in ending the market for stolen goods. The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries recognizes the importance of such measures. It recommends that its members record the seller's driver's license or other government identification, the license plate number of the seller's vehicle, creating a unique ID number for each regular customer, obtaining the seller's signature or a combination of those methods.
"If the scrap dealers cannot buy stolen copper," the Law Enforcement Coalition explains, "the copper thieves will have little incentive to steal it." That would be true only if all scrap dealers were to take measures useful in exposing thieves.
In the absence of such voluntary unanimity, a state law is needed to counter the pilfering of copper wherever it can be reached. Since May, copper bandits have stripped wiring from about 100 light fixtures along state freeways, leaving them in the dark and causing $300,000 in damage, according to the coalition.
In November, thieves damaged six restrooms and pulled copper wires from electrical equipment at Sand Island Recreation Area, costing the state more than $100,000 in damages. Hawaiian Electric Co. has been the victim of about 20 copper raids, and copper gutters have been carried away from numerous schools, homes and businesses.
The scrap dealers association has asked its members to "develop a working relationship with their local law enforcement, industry and municipalities" to prevent the inadvertent purchase of stolen scrap. Hawaii dealers apparently have received little help, perhaps because of competition among the state's dozen or so dealers and their reluctance to annoy customers. That is why the proposed law is needed.