California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law a bill by Assemblymember Wilmer Amina Carter, D-Rialto, that prevents metal recyclers from paying quick cash for copper. The "No Cash for Copper" Metal Theft Prevention Act, Assembly Bill 1508, goes into effect on January 1, 2013. The measure will bar copper thieves from getting up to $20 in cash on the spot from scrap metal recyclers for small amounts of copper that are combined with the redemption of beverage containers. Existing law requires all recycling centers that buy copper to check the seller's photo ID, take video or a photo of the seller and the material being sold, and also collect their thumb print. Cash is not allowed to be given instantly. The seller must come back three days later or have a check mailed to them.
Sellers, however, found a way to redeem quick cash for their scrap metals through a loophole in current law which allows an instant redemption of up to $20 if the metals were mixed with recyclables. "The law had encouraged copper wire thieves to cut up the metal into little pieces. When combining it with recyclable cans, they could walk away with cash in hand," Carter said.
Over the past several years, copper theft has reached epidemic proportions, jeopardizing public safety and leading to severe injury or even death. Although the street value of stolen copper is usually only a few hundred dollars, time and resources spent to repair damage to businesses, schools, construction sites and utilities can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"The damage to property and the risk to public safety can be much greater than the value of the metal," said Carter, who successfully championed legislation in 2011 which stiffen penalties for copper theft.
"Now that these two laws are in place, my hope is that thieves will think twice before they steal from our farmers, schools, churches, business owners, utilities and California taxpayers," Assemblymember Carter said.