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Texas Lawmaker Fighting Back Against Copper Thieves
Four people are under arrest, accused of stealing 700 pounds of copper in Williamson county. The foursome is accused of stealing from several electrical substations owned by Pedernales Electric Cooperative before being busted by the Lower Colorado River Authority. The problem is prompting state lawmakers to take action.
Copper thefts continue to cripple Central Texas. Crooks are looking to make a quick buck at the victim's expense. Clean copper wire can sell for $3 per pound.
"We don't want to buy stolen metal. We have too much good business to deal with that," said Jim Shapiro.
Shapiro is the owner of Austin Metal and Iron. He's working with state lawmakers to crack down on copper-related crimes.
"We've had tremendous problems with thefts of copper," said Representative William Callegari, District 132 (R-Houston).
Callegari is sponsoring house bill 555.
"it's aimed at the people who buy the materials to make them more cooperative and making sure we stop those people who are selling materials that may be stolen," added Callegari.
If passed, scrap yard owners who knowingly buy stolen metal could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor and a face a fine of up to $10,000. Shapiro, who is the president of the recycling council is all for it.
"There are bad operators in the scrap metal industry," said Shapiro.
Last session, state lawmakers passed Senate Bill 694.
"it requires scrap yards to take identification, make and model of vehicle and take video or still picture of selling and the material," added Shapiro.
That information is sent to the Department of Public Safety database -- putting another barrier between copper crooks looking to make some quick cash.
In a statement released to KEYE TV, the senior director of engineering said "copper theft has been a serious issue for Pedernales Electric Cooperative with thefts occurring at about 10 substations last fall."
The LCRA declined to comment on the story, saying they expect to make more arrests in the near future and don't want to compromise the investigation.
By Alex Boyer