New State Law Aims To Combat Copper Thieves

Thursday, November 1st 2018, 10:34 pm
By: Amy Avery

New laws that went into effect on Thursday will help law enforcement across the state fight copper thieves.

Tulsa City crews are still working to fix highway lights that were hit by thieves earlier this year and now hope they will see a drop in people trying to sell stolen copper.

City engineers say copper thieves have been a big headache for them and hopefully these new laws will help.

"We’ve been hit with over 35 miles of copper theft in the city of Tulsa," said City Traffic Engineer Kurt Kraft.

Kraft says they've seen an increase in copper thieves targeting highway lights in the past three to five years. So much so they've had to make significant changes to the wiring.

"The dollar value they steal in copper is nothing compared to the dollar value of the damage they do," said Kraft.

Since April of 2016, Tulsa Police have arrested 95 people for stealing different types of metal. On Wednesday they arrested Marcus Toney for taking copper out of an abandoned hotel on Skelly Drive.

“We are trying to take away the ability for people to sell large-scale wire which is kind of what got us walking down the path to change the law,” said TPD Cpl. Craig Johnson.

Oklahoma Lawmakers passed changes to copper laws that will help make it harder for people to sell metal to scrap dealers. Including you must have a state or federal ID to sell. Lawmakers say this will reduce the type of copper that can be sold by non-licensed people. It will also update the paperwork needed to sell a car at a scrap metal dealer and change to an online reporting system.

"This will get the entire state reporting. not just Tulsa and Oklahoma City," said Cpl. Johnson.

Cpl. Johnson says it takes a lot of digging to catch people who are selling stolen scrap metal, but these new laws will hopefully help put more people behind bars.

 “If we can take away the avenue that people use to sell the wire that they steal that’s huge right there. If there’s no profit in it will stop,” said Cpl. Johnson

Tulsa Police says if you see someone who is near a street light or near an abandoned building that looks suspicious, it doesn’t hurt to call them, so they can check it out.

The City of Tulsa has fixed a lot of the highway lights that were hit along the BA, I-44, 244, and other major highways so now the IDL is the only one left.