Berryhill And Galgiani Metal Theft Legislation Clears First Hurdle

March 29, 2007

SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Tom Berryhill (R-Modesto) and Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) joined forces to pass “The Metal Theft Prevention Act” (AB 844) through the Assembly Business and Professions Committee today with unanimous support.  The bill aims to curb the rising rate of metal theft that has been especially devastating to farmers, utility companies, and construction companies.  Berryhill, the author of the bill, presented it in committee with principal coauthor Galgiani.  Additional coauthors are Assemblymember Bill Maze (R-Visalia) and Senators Dave Cogdill (R-Modesto) and Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria).

AB 844 would require junk metal dealers and recyclers to pay sellers by check ten days after the sale.  It would also allow the dealers and recyclers to choose between keeping a visual recording of the seller and the metal being sold, or holding the metal for 15 days in the condition it was purchased.

“This bill will be of great assistance in stopping metal theft in California,” said Berryhill.  “While there are several existing regulations for the purchase of metals by junk dealers and recyclers, it is clear that more is needed.”

The bill received strong support from the State Sheriffs Association, particularly because law enforcement has concluded that metal theft is closely linked to drug abuse.  The payment by check with a 10-day holding period is designed to make metal theft less appealing to those who steal metal to obtain quick cash to purchase drugs.  Requiring a photo or video of the seller and the metal they are selling is designed to deter those that have obtained the metal by theft, and a holding period on the metal would aid law enforcement investigations.

Witnesses included San Joaquin County Sheriff Steve Moore who described the losses and damage to equipment from metal theft in his county.  Galgiani and Sheriff Moore drew a clear line between metal theft and the Methamphetamine epidemic that has plagued San Joaquin Valley counties for years.

“The alarming increase in these thefts is a result of the ease of getting cash in order to buy drugs and the drug of choice is Methamphetamine.  “If a farmers irrigation pumps are disrupted or destroyed due to copper wire theft, that farmer runs the risk of losing an entire crop due to lack of water.  This is a disaster waiting to happen,” said Galgiani.  “While the thief may get less than $100, the damage caused to the individual farm, business or construction site can be easily in the thousands of dollars.”

AB 844 is sponsored by the California Farm Bureau, and other supporters included by PG & E, Southern California Edison, and AT &T.  The bill will now await a hearing in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Contact: Reichel Feicht @ (916) 319-2017