New bill would stiffen penalty for copper theft - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

New bill would stiffen penalty for copper theft

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -

It has happened at homes, businesses and churches. Dozens of people have fallen victim to copper theft.

The chance of a quick buck has thieves striking all across central Alabama. But a proposed new bill could help slow them down when they try to sell the copper.

Kim Holifield is ready to see a stiffer penalty for offenders. Just after the Thanksgiving weekend, a home she's trying to sell was broken into.

"Brought the air conditioner in here and dismantled it. Tore down the walls and took all the copper pipes in here and tore the ceiling down," said Holifield.

The price tag for the damage thieves leave behind, Holifield says is, "about 6 to 7 thousand dollars."

It's that kind of loss prompting prosecutors to call for stiffer penalties and a better form of communication between law enforcement and scrap metal yards.

"From $200 worth of copper wire, they're doing $15,000 dollars worth of damage so that has to be addressed," said Jeffco Chief Assistant D.A. Bill Veitch.

Jefferson County District Attorney Brandon Falls seconds that but says the system in place now is slowing authorities down.

"As it stands now, you have police officers who are going from location to location if something comes up missing," said Falls.

Falls says a new bill they're working on would implement a web based system.

This is how it would work: as sellers drop off metal at a scrap yard their information, right down to what car they're driving will be uploaded and sent to law enforcement daily. Another big change would make the penalty equally tough for all scrap thieves.

"What we're saying here is if you steal or do damage to an air conditioner to a church it doesn't matter  whether it's $300 dollars worth of damage or $700 dollars worth of damage or $2600 dollars worth of damage it's all going to be a class C felony," said Falls. These are words victims like Holifield are pleased to hear.

"People don't have compassion for anything. They will do whatever it takes," said Holifield.

The proposed bill will be introduced in February when the legislative session begins.

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