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GOP lawmakers take on copper thefts through supply, price

Attorney General Tom Horne, left, and Rep. Ted Vogt, R-Tucson, listen as Rep. Tom Forese, R-Gilbert, explains a bill intended to curb thefts of copper air conditioning parts by those intent on selling them as scrap. (Cronkite News Service Photo by Devin McIntyre)

Two state lawmakers say Arizona reduce copper thefts by preventing banning individuals from selling air conditioner parts for scrap and how much dealers can pay for the metal.

“This is a time when it is the government’s job to defend current and future victims,” said Rep. Tom Forese, R-Gilbert, who collaborated with Rep. Ted Vogt, R-Tucson, on the bills.

The lawmakers, who held a news conference Wednesday to explain their bills, said HB 2395 would increase accountability by allowing only certified businesses to sell dealers coils and other parts from household and commercial air conditioners, which are common targets for copper thieves.

HB 2396 would diminish the incentive for stealing copper by requiring scrap companies to pay the “average fair market price” for the metal.

“This has to end; this will end in this session,” Vogt said.

Arizona has regulated purchasing scrap metal since 1968, starting with Legislature requiring scrap metal dealers to maintain transaction records. A broad 2009 law attempted to curb copper theft by, among other provisions, prohibiting scrap metal dealers from purchasing manhole covers, water meters and catalytic converters in their original forms.

Attorney General Tom Horne, who said he a few hundred dollars of copper stolen from commercial properties he owns, requiring $20,000 in repairs, said all Arizonans wind up paying for copper theft when criminals strike government buildings and schools.

“We are still paying for it because it ends up in our taxes,” Horne said. “Copper theft adds insult to injury.”

Sgt. Theresa Clark, head of the metal theft investigations unit for the Phoenix Police Department, said the number of thefts has risen dramatically of late.

“In the past year over 3,000 people were victimized,” Clark said. “No one is immune.”

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