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Police seek tougher laws on copper theft

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Copper prices are at a all-time high causing an increase in thefts of the metal. Copper prices are at a all-time high causing an increase in thefts of the metal.
Works sort through metal at a recycling company in Oklahoma City. Works sort through metal at a recycling company in Oklahoma City.

By Jennifer Pierce, NEWS 9

Police are asking lawmakers to enact stricter laws to deal with copper theft.

The value of copper is at an all time high so thieves are cashing in.  Currently if you take copper wire to a recycling plant all you have to do is show identification, and metal dealers have to hold the copper for 10 days.  But police said the law doesn't do enough to stop thieves. 

Oklahoma City Police Inspector Martin Stupka said the increase is primarily in air conditioning units.

"We're experiencing on a monthly basis anywhere from 150 to 200 units a month that are being destroyed for the copper coil united inside," Stupka said.

 Police want to separate the legitimate sellers from the thieves. 

"We going to have them sign a form that states they are in fact the legal owners of the property they are selling, similar to what we do in pawn shops," Stupka said.

Police are asking lawmakers to add the measure to the current copper wire law in hopes of cutting down on copper thefts. 

But some local metal dealers aren't happy with the proposed measures.

David Griffith of CFF Recycling said it's hard enough on dealers to be required to hold copper wire for 10 days after they buy it.

"It feels like the whole burden is on us to control the issue that we have no control on to start with," he said. "So what I buy today at today's price may be a lower price in two to three days. So if I have to hold it 10 days, and with the way the market fluctuates now, it could be a great loss for me and other recycles in Oklahoma City."

In addition to losing money, CFF has had to beef up security Griffith said. Metal recycling plants like this have become targets for thieves. 

"We caught people here trying to steal our product," he said.

The revised copper law would also include a measure that makes it illegal for someone to sell copper wire without the protective insulation.

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