New bill designed to curb copper thefts

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A bill designed to discourage theft of copper from air conditioners is expected to become law as early next week.

The legislation bans cash payouts for copper, catalytic converters and beer kegs. Instead, scrap metal recycling centers will have to write checks to customers.

"If you can imagine, balancing your checkbook at the end of the month with three to four to five thousand checks which it could easily be," said Charleston Steel and Metal Vice President Barry Wolff.

Sellers and buyers also will be required to get permits from local law enforcement.

"My fear is that this is going to create another network of people that will take the scrap from the crooks and be willing to go to the sheriff and get a permit to sell it, and the bad thing about that is it disconnects the crook with the stolen merchandise," Wolff said.

The new regulations also require metal recyclers to get a copy of the seller's permit, along with their photograph and license plate number.

Wolff said the best way to discourage scrap metal theft is to put the crooks in prison for the value of the damage done.

"Not for the $50 or $80 or $100 worth of scrap. Put them in jail for the $5,000 or $6,000 it takes to replace that air conditioner."

It will be a new way of doing business designed to put copper crooks out of business. Time will tell if it will work.

"I hope it does," said Wolff. "I'm skeptical because unfortunately a thief is a thief is a thief."

Wolff said after the bill is signed into law, scrap metal businesses will have 60 days to come into compliance.

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