(WBNG Binghamton) Thursday, New York Senator Charles E. Schumer reintroduced his bipartisan legislation, the Metal Theft Prevention Act, to prevent the theft and sale of stolen scrap metal.

According to a news release from Schumer's office:

Metal commodities prices have skyrocketed in recent years, leading to a sharp rise in metal theft in Upstate New York and across the country. The bipartisan legislation introduced by Senator Schumer, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) will establish harsher penalties for metal thieves. The Metal Theft Prevention Act would help crack down on metal thieves and make it harder for them to sell stolen metal. Metal theft has jumped more than 80 percent in recent years, as thieves steal high-priced metal from critical infrastructure as well as businesses, homes, churches and even veterans’ graves – causing families pain and threatening public safety. Schumer said that this problem disproportionately affects communities with high rates of abandoned and foreclosed housing, because stripping them of pipes and wiring makes them much harder to renovate and resell. 
 
“It is time to put thieves who steal scrap metal from homes, businesses, infrastructure – and even veterans’ graves – behind ironclad bars,” said Schumer. “This practical plan will combat the rash of metal theft by requiring recyclers to keep detailed documentation of metal purchases, capping the amount of cash recyclers can pay for scrap metal, ensuring that those selling metal are authorized to do so, and by making metal theft a federal crime. This proposal will safeguard families, business owners, and commuters who are endangered by the stripped infrastructure, fires, and financial hit as a result of these crimes.”

Between 2009 and 2011, the National Insurance Crime Bureau found over 25,000 insurance claims related to metal theft, an increase of 81 percent over claims made between 2006 and 2008. In a recent study, the U.S. Department of Energy found that the total value of damages to industries affected by the theft of copper wire would likely exceed $900 million each year.

The Metal Theft Prevention Act calls for enforcement by the Attorney General and gives state attorneys general the ability to bring civil actions to enforce the provisions of the legislation. It also directs the U.S. Sentencing Commission to review penalty guidelines as they relate to metal theft and make sure they are adequate. The bill also makes it an explicit federal crime to steal metal from critical infrastructure.

In addition, the legislation would also make it much tougher for thieves to sell stolen metals to scrap metal dealers. It contains a “Do Not Buy” provision which bans scrap metal dealers from buying certain items unless the sellers establish, by written documentation, that they are authorized to sell the metal in question. As a result of the bill, scrap metal dealers would be required to keep detailed records of metal purchases for two years and make them available to law enforcement agencies. The bill would also require that purchases of scrap metal over $100 be done by check instead of cash, to further help law enforcement track down thieves. Klobuchar, Graham and Schumer introduced similar legislation in the previous Congress.

Schumer highlighted a few examples of metal theft from throughout the state:

• In July 2012, copper cable incident was stolen at the Waterford railroad bridge outside of Albany, create longstanding dangers for communities and residents of the Capital Region. After 1,000 feet of signal wire was stolen from the Waterford-Cohoes railroad bridge, railroad communication was cut off for at least 15 minutes.

• In October 2011, two thieves illegally accessed the Kingston Trolley Museum grounds, cut apart a 3000 ft. spool of specialized copper wire valued at approximately $12,000, and sold it to a local metal recycler.

• In February 2012, an employee at a manufacturing and warehousing facility was charged with stealing thousands of pounds of steel from the company’s loading docks. It is alleged that every time he made a delivery, he diverted part of the shipment. He then sold the metal to scrap yards in Syracuse and Utica.

• In May 2012, Westchester County Police arrested seven New York Medical College employees for stealing a variety of fixtures, including copper wire, ducts, plumbing, and steel cages. Police say the criminals netted $37,000 since they first began selling to scrap metal yards in January 2008.

• In July 2012 in Dunkirk, a man broke into the Altech Wire Mill on West Lucas Avenue, filled an old shipping barrel with copper wire, and set it alight in an attempt to melt off its insulation and sell the remaining wire for scrap metal. The fire then burned out of control, causing damage to the facility.

•  In 2011 and 2012, Monroe County experienced an unprecedented spike in the number of catch basin sewer grates and manhole covers stolen off local roads. In 2011, 192 sewer grates or manhole covers were stolen, costing taxpayers $16,128 to replace. By August of 2012, 123 sewer grates and 3 manhole covers were stolen at a cost of $10,584. Prior to this sudden theft increase, fewer than 15 grates were stolen in 2010 and only three in 2009

• In June 2012 in Syracuse, a metal flagpole holder was stolen from the grave of Korean War veteran John Dopkowski. This was the tenth flagpole holder to be taken from Assumption Cemetery since late May as other cemeteries have reported similar instances.