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The Senate is moving to make metal theft a federal crime.
The Judiciary Committee is poised to take action on a bill that would impose a 10-year prison sentence on anyone caught stealing metal from telephone or cell towers, highway equipment or other critical infrastructure. Copper theft is a particular problem, with the average annual price on global markets quadrupling over the past decade.
The bill would also make it tougher to fence stolen metal by requiring more record-keeping for recycling agents, and prohibiting them from paying cash for purchases larger than $100.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the Minnesota Democrat who wrote the bill, said metal theft has jumped more than 80 percent in recent years, and people have stolen from homes, churches and even brass stars from veterans’ graves in her home state.
The National Crime Insurance Bureau put the increase in theft at 36 percent from 2010 through 2012, as compared to the prior three years.
Copper is the biggest draw, accounting for 96 percent of those filed claims, the journal reported. The metal is at record prices.
The Insurance Journal said metal theft costs U.S. businesses about $1 billion a year.