Legislation proposed by Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, would help communities crack down on copper wire and other metal theft. Senate Bill 5413, an act relating to metal theft would expand metal theft provisions relating to costs to repair physical damage, penalties, and seizure and forfeiture.
“Copper wire theft has a broad impact on the community -- when thieves steal wiring from park lighting, youth and adult athletes, as well as casual park users are prevented from using the park,” said Eide, sponsor of the bill. “Darkened streetlights can lead to traffic accidents and facilitate crime. In both cases, taxpayers are punished when costly repairs are needed to restore lighting.”
Senate Bill 5413 would also require county sheriffs to issue nonferrous metal permits to applicants who have met certain requirements; prohibit a scrap metal business from entering into a transaction for nonferrous metal material with a person who does not have a nonferrous metal permit; and create a Washington wire theft task force to investigate and prosecute wire theft.
"One day after I agreed to sponsor this bill on behalf of the City of Federal Way I too became a victim of metal theft," said Eide. Metal theft impacts local governments, school districts and nonprofit agencies at a time of significant budget challenges:
· Last year Spokane had almost a mile of copper wire stolen from police substations;
· In Olympia, taxpayers picked up the $30,000 tab for copper wire stolen from street lights; and
· At Federal Way's Celebration Park last August, thieves made off with a little under $2,000 of wire, but repairs costs were more than $34,000 and came within hours of canceling a statewide soccer tournament for hundreds of youth soccer players.
"Senator Eide's legislation addresses one of the most critical public safety issues facing local communities and provides the tools necessary to reduce metal theft," said Federal Way Mayor Skip Priest. "This bill will protect homes, businesses, food banks, parks and our critical public infrastructure."
The state Department of Energy estimates that for every $100 that a copper thief actually gets in stolen materials, it costs $5,000 in repairs. Last December, thieves struck the Multi-Service Center, a leading South King County social services nonprofit and food bank in Federal Way. They cut and stole copper pipes and wiring from the center's HVAC system, causing over $80,000 in damage and replacement costs.