By: Brittany Lewis
(ABC 6 NEWS) -- Metal thefts have been on the rise across the country and in our area. Now, Senator Amy Klobuchar, is working to prevent future thefts. Klobuchar introduced the Metal Theft Prevention Act in late November. Monday, Klobuchar was in Rochester at Nietz Electric, discussing the bill.
The bill makes it a federal crime to steal metal from critical infrastructure from places like cell phone towers and electric grids. The bill also makes it tougher for thieves to sell metals to scrap metal dealers.
"We need to be as determined as the thieves that are stealing the copper,” said Klobuchar.
Copper, aluminum, stainless steel, and scrap metal.
"Metal theft is a crime and it's on the rise,” added Klobuchar.
"In 2012, Olmsted County experienced a number of thefts from critical infrastructure. 70 residential and area businesses were victims of metal theft,” said Olmsted County Sheriff, David Mueller.
Watson’s Recycling a victim of the crime. On Thanksgiving of 2011, the company had more than $20,000 worth of metals stolen.
"We've been the victims of theft. We know what it feels like to have something taken and we really are concerned about it and we do appreciate efforts to stop it,” said Jeremiah Watson, owner of Watson’s Recyling.
Those efforts coming in the form of the Metal Theft Prevention Act. The bill bans scrap yards from buying certain items unless the sellers establish in writing that they are authorized to sell the metal. Dealers would be required to keep detailed records of secondary metal purchases for two years and purchases of metal over $100 would be done by a check instead of cash.
"I think we can see from the crimes we've seen uh at this area and specifically affecting this company, that these thieves will not stop at anything to steal this metal to make a quick buck,” said Klobuchar.
The safety of victims and thieves, a concern.
"Our number one concern is safety because you can't see currents so someone cutting wire that may be dead, is obviously at a very serious risk for their life,” said Elaine Garry.
"This is critical. We are seeing an increase across the country and it is only a matter of time before something bad happens in terms of critical infrastructure and that's why we've already seen people die,” said Klobuchar.
Minnesota legislation already requires scrap metal dealers to pay for purchases by check and keep records on purchases for three years. This federal law could prevent items that are stolen in Minnesota from being sold in other states.