AB 909 has passed unanimously out of the Assembly Public Safety Committee and will be heard by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Friday.
The Fresno County Sheriff's Department reports losses due to metal theft reached $1.11 million for the first quarter of 2013—a sum greater than the entire annual loss for some past years. Fresno County Sheriff's Ag Task Force Detective Kirby Alstrom, a metal theft investigator for about nine years, said while copper wire remains a metal of choice for many thieves, he is now seeing more thefts of scrap iron.
"In the past two or three years, scrap iron has gone through the roof as far as price, so they are stealing farming implements—your plows, cultivators, tractors, forklifts—anything made out of metal," Alstrom said. "They are taking not only legitimate scrap, but also good, usable equipment and cutting it all up, destroying it and selling it."
One of the biggest problems for rural crime detectives, Alstrom said, is identifying the metal at the recycling centers.
"Even when we do find out about it right away and we get to the yard and we're looking at it, we're saying, 'This has got to be the stuff,' but we're not sure because it has changed so drastically. It has either been cut up or altered in other ways to make it unrecognizable to us," Alstrom said.
Other bills aim to stop a proliferation of "metal laundering," involving sellers who have met the criteria to be paid the same day rather than waiting for the three-day period required by state law. Authorities say some of those sellers improperly buy stolen metal from thieves that they then sell to recyclers.
- Senate Bill 485 by Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, would ensure that recyclers and junk dealers comply with current law and are properly permitted to operate their businesses. It would give county agricultural commissioners and sealers the authority to inspect the records of junk dealers and recyclers, and issue citations if they are found to be violating the law. The bill was unanimously approved by the Senate Business, Professions, and Economic Development Committee and will be considered this week by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
- SB 757 by Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto, would exempt secondhand dealers from regulations pertaining to junk dealers and recyclers. Berryhill said he plans to amend SB 757 to include improvements to the current recordkeeping and payment requirements for junk dealers and recyclers that were put in place by his metal theft law that took effect in 2008. SB 757 now awaits hearing on the Senate floor.
- AB 841 by Norma Torres, D-Pomona, would require junk dealers and recyclers to pay for all nonferrous metal purchases by check and eliminate quick cash for metal. The bill passed the Assembly and now awaits hearing by the Senate Business, Professions, and Economic Development Committee.