Copper thieves target church; recyclers like idea of state law to thwart metal thefts

Legislation calls for stricter statewide regulations to crack down on metal thieves

by Paula Morehouse and Justin Haase, KY3 Newsnews@ky3.com10:09 p.m. CST, March 4, 2013

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. —  Knocked over, torn apart, and ripped away. That was how Robert Burnett recently discovered several air conditioning units.

“This is very, very upsetting.”

Upsetting, Pastpr Burnett said, because thieves didn’t think twice about targeting a house of prayer. It’s the Central Baptist Church in north Springfield where Burnett is the pastor.

I’m not surprised,” said Burnett.  “I was just wishing and hoping because they were up so high that it wouldn’t happen to us, but I guess there’s no exceptions.”

Four units were damaged. The culprits were after copper.

“We’re dealing with at least $6,000 to $7,000 worth of damage for five feet of copper, for five feet of copper.”

Burnett said that dollar amount doesn’t include the amount of replacing freon in one massive unit — and that’s if the gas is still available.  If it’s not, it could cost upwards of $30,000 to replace.

Stories like this prompted state Sen. David Sater, R – Cassville, to sponsor a bill that would implement some statewide regulations in the industry.

Senate Bill 157 calls for increased electronic record-keeping to include the seller’s name, address, birth date, license plate number, and a photograph of the person. It would also require a description of the scrap metal and its value.  And police would have access to the database of information.

“It’s a way to level the playing field on the business end and also make it easier to keep track of stolen material and maybe catch some of these people that are going out stealing,” said Kim McCoy, the office manager at McCoy Iron & Metal in Springfield.

It would create a level playing field, said Kim McCoy, because Springfield already has stringent scrap metal regulations. Thieves, though, work their way around the system by taking their metal to counties and towns where the rules are more lenient.

The proposed legislation aims to fill that loophole, which could help prevent more people from becoming victims.

“It hurts because we’re a small church with limited resources,” said Burnett.

The bill has passed out of committee and is headed to the Senate floor for debate.

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