Alabama's New Scrap Metal Law: Beware Copper Thieves

A warning for people who steal copper: there's a new state law in Alabama targeting thieves and the people who buy from them.

It took effect September 1st, but it hasn't slowed the illegal trade down - yet.

The proof?

Another day, another series of thefts, and among the victims, a group that helps prison inmates.

You might have thought the wake up call came when thieves targeted doctors offices for their air conditioners, or when they moved to churches and took the copper heavy appliances from outside.

But now, thieves have moved to another target; the very people who try to help them.

"The Concerned Citizens Organization formed out of Jesus Christ Missionary Church," said the Rev. Albert Sankey.

He leads the Concerned Citizens, 20 people who talk to prison inmates.

"A lot of inmates write us saying they're not getting their medication, they're not getting proper food," said Sankey.

The thieves took a window air conditioner, computers, two printers, a fax machine, a television and phone from the organization's office.

It's a tiny theft compared to four others that happened on the west side, where two businesses lost between two and three thousand dollars and another took eight thousand dollars in damages. But the mere fact that anyone would target an inmate aid group disturbs Sankey.

'It's uncalled for," he said.

Police have few leads, which is typical for copper thefts. Most of the time, investigators never get any help until the thief tries to make a sale. As for suspects in the CCO theft?

"We know some individuals who just got out of prison a few weeks ago, so they may have been part of it," the Rev. Sankey said.

One of the few bills that passed the Alabama legislature this year is Act 2007-451. That's the new law we're referring to.

It requires anyone selling to metal companies to provide a government ID, sign a statement saying the metal they bring in isn't stolen, and that they must provide a home address and the license plate number of the car they deliver the metal with.

The buyers must keep a written purchase log for police to look at. If they buy more than 100 dollars in metal from anyone, they can't pay cash. The law says they must now pay with a check, which will then be placed in the mail.

The thought is that people who are looking for drug money won't wait that long to get their next hit.

Under the law, anyone who sells stolen metal to a recycler faces a Class A misdemeanor unless it's worth more than 250 dollars.

The crime then becomes a Class C felony.