Fighting Back Against Metal Thieves

March 14, 2008 9:01:03 PM PDT
Farmers and police are getting mad about an extreme increase in people stealing copper wire and other metals.To give you an idea of the scope of the problem in Fresno County last year reported losses from metal theft topped one-million dollars! Everyone agrees stricter state laws are needed to solve this growing problem.

Every day miles of rolled-up copper wire and stolen Ag equipment are sold as scrap metal. This summit on metal and wire theft drew a packed house in Easton the frustrated faces belonged to fed-up farmers.

Mark Sorensen, Caruthers Farmer: "I don't know of any farmer who hasn't been affected by it. "I've been hit five to six times sometimes twice on the same pump."

Irrigation valves are ripped out of Valley fields and sold at scrap yards. Copper wire goes for $3.00 a pound.

Chris Sanchez, Huron Farmer: "The metal yards, they're just as guilty as the guys stealing. If they're buying and they know it's stolen, that's kind of a tough catch-22."

"I don't think they're informed."

Fresno recycler Randy Tosi posts a sign which says selling stolen utility wire is a crime. He also keeps three-months worth of surveillance video at his recycling yard.

Randy Tosi, Bruno's Recycling: "if we suspect it's stolen we buy it and set it aside. Make the phone calls we need to make. Through the use of videos and id systems and the thumb prints that we take and help them make their cases."

But not all recyclers are as cooperative. Authorities want stiffer penalties for those who don't comply.

Margaret Mims, Fresno County Sheriff: "We need something standardized statewide so the law is equal no matter where these thieves go."

Assemblyman Tom Berryhill represents Chowchilla and Madera. He's proposed a bill which puts tighter restrictions on recyclers

Berryhill: "The goal of 844 is to disrupt the methodology of what these meth addicts are using to get that immediate cash."

Police believe the majority of metal thieves are drug addicts trying to get money to buy drugs. Farmers say recyclers should be paid by check instead of cash.

"The problem I had with the checking issue is some poor people don't have checking accounts."

Metal theft isn't limited to the farm. Action news has reported on many cases in which neighborhoods have gone dark because copper wire was stripped from streetlights.

The City of Fresno spends $75-thousand dollars a month to repair public works items damaged by theft.


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