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New Ariz. laws ease metal thefts

The Åssociated Press

TUCSON, Ariz. - Law enforcement and scrap metal businesses both agree that copper thefts are down because of changes in laws that cover scrap metal sales in Arizona.

A revised law that took effect Sept. 1 requires scrap metal yards to carefully document sales of scrap metal.

Penalties were also increased for convicted metal thieves.

Under the law, scrap metal dealers must record detailed information about every purchase of a metal other than iron worth more than $25. The dealers must note the date, time and place of the purchase, the dollar amount, the sellers name, birth date, address, signature, physical description and the number and state of the license plate on the sellers vehicle.

They also have to photocopy the sellers drivers license, take a photograph or video record of the seller and the material sold and also take a fingerprint.

Last year, copper prices peaked at almost $4 per pound. In 2003, copper prices were less than $1, according to figures from the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The new laws help explain why copper thefts are down even though prices still hover around $3, Tucson police detectives said.

Companies have also increased security after large thefts of metal.

"We have had several cases where we had to inform large companies of what they lost, in one case a big spool of copper," said Sgt. Richard Carpenter, a Tucson police detective.

"The security just wasn't there."

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