The Oklahoma House Judiciary Committee unanimously passed a bill Wednesday aiming to curb scrap metal theft.
The Sgt. Craig Johnson Metal Theft Act is named after the Tulsa police officer instrumental in the legislation’s creation, but who was killed in the line of duty before it could become law.
“If we can take away the avenue the people have to sell the wire that they steal that's huge right there,” Johnson told News On 6 in 2018.
“This crime costs state home and business owners hundreds of thousands of dollars each year and has even resulted in loss of life. Something Sergeant Johnson was passionate about stopping,” Rep. Carol Bush, R-Tulsa said. “It’s an honor to name this legislation after him even as it is heartbreaking to no longer have him here to see its passage.”
Johnson and a statewide coalition developed the legislation to require better documentation and tracking of scrap metal sales. Before Johnson’s murder, the bill passed the House unanimously but was later sidelined due to COVID-19.
Public Service Company of Oklahoma spokesman Stan Whiteford said scrap metal theft, especially copper, is a problem plaguing communities across the state.
“People stealing copper from energized equipment can be deadly. Also, it can cause power outages to customers,” Whiteford said. “And then third, it's a matter of economics. We had about 30 or so incidents of copper theft last year but that cost us about $250,000.”
The bill, HB 1001, was the first to be filed this legislative session. It requires sellers provide a federally recognized identification card and a vehicle identification number or license plate.
The proposal also requires a digital image of the items purchased and of the seller. Records must be maintained for no less than two years from the date of the transaction.
Bush said even following his tragic death, Sgt. Johnson's commitment to protect and serve lives on.
“Sergeant Johnson was a key to this important legislation that would help us curb scrap metal theft in our state,” she said.
The bill is now able to be heard before the full Oklahoma House of Representatives.