Legistlators in Florida have passed a metal-theft bill that would enhance criminal penalities against metal-theives and corrupt recyclers, according to an article from the Orlando Sentinel.
After the death of South Florida woman Thelma Morrow in September, lawmakers have been pressing for higher penalties on metal theft to help improve public safety, the article says. Morrow was killed when she was hit by a car on a dark street where copper theives had stripped the wires from Miami streetlights. The driver who hit her told police that the darkness made the crash difficult to avoid, the article says.
The bill is being sent to Gov. Rick Scott, who is expected to sign it, and would be put into effect July 1, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
The theft of utility wires would be classed as a first-degree felony instead of a misdemeanor, and the bill would also put pressure and restrictions on scrap-metal yards across the state.
The bill prohibits buying 17 metal items often targeted for theft, inclduing manhole covers, backflow valves, coils from air conditioners and utiltiy light poles, wires and fixtures, the article says. People selling these items must prove ownership or proof that they are authroized to sell the metals. Dealers must also pay for metals by check, not cash.
Any dealer intentionally ignoring the requirements, the article says, would face a third-degree felony charge, or a first-degree felony charge if caught with three or more offenses.
The new restrictions should only affect dealers who turn a blind eye to their illegal sources, the article says.
"It's the ones that aren't legit who are going to have serious problems to comply," said Keyna Cory, coordinator of Floridians for Copper and Metal Theft Crime Prevention, a coalistion of industry organizations.