New Kentucky law helps authorities stem metal thefts

A new Kentucky law will help combat copper metal theft across the state. The new law became effective on July 15, 2008 and gives law enforcement authorities valuable new tools to help curb the growing trend of copper metal theft.

“Kentucky residents are put at risk by these thefts, which can cause phone service outages that leave people without access to 911 emergency services,” said Joan Coleman, president of AT&T Kentucky. “The new law will help police catch thieves and makes it harder for thieves to profit from such thefts.”

Coleman said the passage of the new law was the result of leadership by the bill’s sponsor, representative Mike Denham of Maysville, as well as Gov. Steve Beshear, who signed the bill into law on April 11, 2008. The bill passed both legislative chambers unanimously.

By requiring scrap metal dealers to keep records related to resale transactions, the law is expected to deter metal thefts and make it easier for police to apprehend criminals.

The law, originally House Bill 106, establishes stronger record-keeping requirements for metal sales to scrap dealers. Scrap metal dealers must register the date and time of the transaction, description of the metal and the amount paid. In addition, scrap metal dealers must retain for two years, the seller’s identification information, including a copy of the photo ID of the seller and tag number of the vehicle used to transport the material. They must also retain the metal material in its original form for three business days or keep a digital photograph of the material.

The bill, similar to laws passed in more than 30 other states, was backed by many Kentucky associations and companies in the telephone and electric industries as well as law enforcement officials.

Such thefts are on the rise nationally, particularly as the price of copper has increased over the last several years. Thefts in Kentucky have included copper wire from power poles, electric substations, construction sites and telecommunications companies. Nationally, copper thefts have caused power and 911 service outages in entire neighborhoods and knocked out railroad signals. Repairs and replacement can cost millions of dollars.