Governor signs bill to deter copper thieves.

A new law signed by Gov. Mary Fallin will help deter copper thieves that have plagued rural communities in Oklahoma, according to the bill’s author.

House Bill 1740, by state Rep. Harold Wright and state Sen. AJ Griffin, prohibits a scrap metal dealer from paying cash in purchasing more than $1,000 of copper and requires them to issue a check instead after establishing the identity of the seller. The new law, which takes effect Nov. 1, also increases the penalty for providing false information for a scrap metal log book to a felony punishable by a $5,000, imprisonment for up to 2 years or both fine and imprisonment.

It also requires scrap metal dealers to be licensed through the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

“Copper theft is becoming widespread in rural communities in Oklahoma,” said Wright, R-Weatherford. “The best way to curtail it is to address scrap metal dealers, who purchase the metal. Ensuring that they are properly licensed and that they must verify the identity of those individuals coming to them with large quantities of copper will help curb this crime. We are also increasing penalties as a further deterrent.”

Wright said the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters came up with the initial idea to address copper thieves.

Vance Harrison, the president of the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, said copper thieves have stripped air conditioning units in every type of building imaginable, including schools and homes. Radio stations have also been the victims of copper thieves, he said.

“Broadcasters have been hard hit,” said Harrison. “We went to Representative Wright with some concerns and some ideas based on legislation that other states have passed and he crafted the bill that looks like it will be very successful and we are very proud of it.”