What will stop metal theft?
Reporter: Craig Smith
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - It's not a violent crime, but it's a high dollar headache for its victims.
We're talking about metal theft, a crime in which drug-driven thieves cause thousands in damage---to get a few dollars when they sell stolen metal as scrap.
Now, state lawmakers are considering new rules to help make metal theft melt away.
To most people a big pile of scrap metal just looks like junk. To a drug addict it looks like enough cash to stay high for a long, long time.
Mike Motzkin asked us not to mention his business. Even with a 10 thousand volt fence around it, and security guards overnight, he worries thieves might still try to break in.
KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith said, "That's a lot of trouble and expense to go to."
Motzkin says, "It is, but the unfortunate part of this is you're gonna pay for it one way or another. Either they're gonna come in and break into the trucks. If you lock the trucks up, they smash the windows, they take crowbars and rip the cabinet doors open. One cabinet door is three to four hundred dollars to replace on one of these trucks."
Now a committee of state lawmakers is considering new laws to cut down on metal theft.
To end the lure of instant cash, metal sellers would have to wait for a check to come in the mail. Someone craving drugs would not get the money fast enough, and they might not even have an address where they could receive a check.
Other parts of the proposal include a quick reporting database to tell police and metal buyers about a theft so quickly buyer have a better chance to recognize stolen goods; and serious prison time if metal theft damaged public utilities like a phone system.
Metropolitan Pima Alliance is a business group working for tougher metal theft laws. Executive Director Amber Smith says there's good support for stronger law because metal theft is a crime that can affect people so many ways.
She says, "911 Operations have been interrupted due to copper theft. Park lighting, anyone who's taken their kids to a ball field, and TEP, they've had lots of attacks; they've been able to fight it but that's a direct service relating to you as well as the water department."
If you want to prosecute a metal thief, unless you catch him in the act you have to figure out a way to connect the stolen metal to where it was stolen from. One idea has been to mark scrap with a distinctive color you could match to a company but some business people question whether that's practical.