Klobuchar: Metal thefts escalatingPublished 11:25am Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Sen. Amy Klobuchar is out to quash thieves’ iron will.
Klobuchar, D-Minn., spoke at Nietz Electric Inc. in Rochester and later greeted Austinites at the local Perkins to discuss her recently-introduced Metal Theft Prevention Act. The legislation aims to fight metal theft, a growing problem nationwide.
“It literally has been escalating for years,” Klobuchar said, adding rural areas were especially likely targets for thefts.
Metal theft has increased 81 percent nationally between 2006 and 2008, and 2009 and 2011, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. The NICB also found more than 25,000 insurance claims related to metal theft between 2009 and 2011.
Sheriff Terese Amazi said Mower County is no exception to high metal theft figures. The crime is driven by the price per pound of material metals.
“There’s still a hefty price tag on copper and aluminum,” said Amazi, noting some people will go into old houses and strip copper piping out to sell it. “They think it’s junk and they’re going to go clean it out.”
The law would make it harder for metal thieves to sell stolen materials, Klobuchar said, by making it a federal offense to steal metal from critical infrastructure. It would also force sellers to be paid by check and require them to register as metal dealers. Senators Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, and Chuck Schumer, D-New York, are cosponsors of the bipartisan bill. Klobuchar is lobbying for the bill to reach the Senate floor.
Metal thefts include stealing copper piping from buildings, driving off with stolen raw materials and removing bronze stars from veterans’ graves. Churches, businesses, homes and infrastructure have all fallen victim. In some cases, metal theft can prove dangerous, especially when a thief tampers with pipes.
“[Workers] go into a work site and they don’t know the piping is out,” Klobuchar said. “It could explode.”
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates the total value of damages exceeds $900 million a year.
“These thieves will stop at nothing to get this high-priced metal and make a quick buck,” Klobuchar said in a news release. “This legislation will crack down on metal thieves, helping put them behind bars and make it more difficult for them to sell their stolen goods.”