Alexandria Echo Press

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and U.S. Representative Erik Paulsen (R-MN) have introduced bipartisan federal legislation to stem the growing endemic of metal thefts.

The bipartisan bill, which would deter thieves from a lucrative practice of stealing high-priced metal from public and private infrastructure, was introduced Thursday in the Senate.

Paulsen introduced the legislation in the House with representatives Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Lee Terry (R-NE).

The Secondary Metal Theft Prevention Act of 2009 is aimed at thieves who steal metal from a variety of vulnerable targets and sell it as a scrap for a quick profit.

According to an unclassified September 2008 FBI report, “Organized groups of drug addicts, gang members and metal thefts are conducting large scale thefts from electric utilities, warehouses, foreclosed and vacant properties, and oil well sites for tens of thousands of dollars in illicit proceeds” every month.

“The vast majority of scrap metal dealers are perfectly legitimate and law abiding,” said Klobuchar. “This law is designed to deter the thieves. The harder it is for them to sell the stolen goods, the less likely it is they’ll steal in the first place.”

“This common sense legislation will reduce crime and drug use and address the growing epidemic of metal theft in our area,” said Paulsen. “The thefts of these materials have important economic and homeland security implications and we need to do everything we can to help ensure this problem is solved.”

The Klobuchar-Paulsen legislation would make it much tougher for thieves to sell stolen metals to scrap metal and other dealers. It contains a “Do Not Buy” provision which bans scrap metal dealers from buying specific items unless sellers establish, by written documentation, that they are authorized to sell the secondary metal in question.

The bill calls for enforcement by the Federal Trade Commission and gives state attorneys general the ability to bring civil action to enforce the provisions of the legislation.

Under the Secondary Metal Theft Prevention Act of 2009, scrap metal dealers would:

--Be required to keep records of secondary metal purchases, including the name and address of the seller, the transaction date, the amount and description of the metal purchased, and the number from the seller’s driver’s license or other government-issued ID card.

--Maintain these records for a minimum of two years and make them available to law enforcement agencies to assist them in tracking down and prosecuting metal thieves.

--Perform transactions of more than $75 by check instead of cash.

--Not pay cash to the same seller within a 48-hour period to dissuade sellers from trying to circumvent the check payment requirement.