As state legislators grapple with a widening epidemic of scrap metal thefts, the question of how to crack down has touched a fundamental ideological nerve — how much government regulation is too much, reports Politico. The need for action has increased along with the skyrocketing price of copper and other metals, which has led to a spike in the number of metal thefts resulting in billions of dollars in damages to state and local governments and to private businesses. “It's a problem that's out of control,” said Washington Rep. Roger Goodman, who sponsored a bill last year. “It hasn't been a high priority for law enforcement because they have crimes against persons they have to pay attention to first. So with limited resources, metal theft has continued unabated. Many states remain largely unequipped to deal with the massive incidents of theft reported each year.”
Pennsylvania, Arkansas, and California, among others, are poised to consider new bills next year that aim to tighten control over the sales of stolen metals. These efforts follow successes in states like Washington and Tennessee, which have already taken steps to curb the problem. In Pennsylvania, one of the hardest-hit states, a bill seeks to amplify existing requirements on metal processors by requiring them to register formally through the state Attorney General's office and join a centralized, industry-wide transaction database that would be accessible to law enforcement agencies.