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New law helps recycling companies catch criminals

A new law will help local recycling companies catch criminals. Idaho Utility companies pushed for the bill during the last legislative session.

The law takes effect July 1, 2013 and will add new regulations to the sale of scrap metal. It’s meant to target thieves who steal copper wire and other recyclable metals to sell for cash. Copper thefts costs power companies thousands each year.

Under current Idaho law, when a person comes into a scrap metal shop selling nonferrous metals like copper, the shop has to get a copy of the customer’s driver’s license. The new law will require shops to record these sellers on camera for 30 seconds, their vehicle and what’s being sold that is something Pacific Recycling in Idaho Falls already does.

“We do require any purchase over $20 that they bring their driver’s license and registration. We take copies of that and we get the information. We have a double check when they pull up to the scale, we’re writing down their vehicle information,” said manager Rob Christman.

The company also uses security cameras. They’re something Christman said is keeping copper thefts down.

“With what we do and the information we get from our cameras, it’s worked out pretty good,” he said.

Idaho Falls Power is one utility company that’s seen its share of copper thefts. Customer Service Supervisor Matt Evans said not only does theft damage the electrical system, it’s dangerous.

“If someone were to break into those facilities, there is high voltage in there so they could end up killing themselves for a little bit of copper,” Evans said.

“The last time it happened they cut the fence and busted in. It wasn’t really well lit in that area and it was away from our cameras,” he said.

Christman said there is one gray area in the new law. It doesn’t specify how long shops have to keep camera records of customers.

There are existing tools law enforcement can use to target thieves like the free scrap-theft alert system, which is available throughout the state.

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