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New Laws Cracking Down on Dangerous Metal Theft Crimes Effective Tomorrow

October 2, 2008

Citizen coalition and legislators anticipate decrease in theft with enforcement of new laws

TALLAHASSEE – With the value of copper and other metals on the rise, communities across the nation have seen a surge in secondary metal theft.  Last year, the number of secondary metal theft crimes increased in Florida with thieves stealing everything from empty beer kegs and irrigation equipment to grave plaques and copper wire from utility sites.  Two laws aimed at reducing secondary metal theft and increasing penalties for those found in violation will take effect tomorrow.

Passed during the 2008 Legislative Session, HB 105, sponsored by Rep. Baxter Troutman (R-Winter Haven), and HB 799, sponsored by Rep. Sandy Adams (R-Oviedo), step up the state’s efforts to deter rampant secondary metal theft across the state and safeguard citizens who may become unintended victims of these crimes.  Thieves often cut copper and electrical wiring, which can result in power or phone outages and potentially dangerous live wires.    

“Foremost, this legislation is about safeguarding innocent Floridians who can be gravely injured or put at risk as a result of these crimes,” said Rep. Troutman. “The previous law did not go far enough to ensure such crimes were monitored and significantly penalized. Tomorrow, the chain of transaction will be broken for metal thefts and the increased costs and potential dangers caused to consumers, homeowners and businesses will be greatly reduced.

”The nationwide trend of metal and copper theft is a direct result of metal’s increased worldwide demand and rising prices. Stolen copper and secondary metals can quickly be sold for cash to a scrap dealer who will pay 85 to 90 percent of the market price.

  • In 2005, copper was $1 per pound, compared to $3 to $4 per pound in 2007
  • Beer keg scrap value has doubled and even tripled from $5 a keg to $10 to $15 a keg in three years
  • Business losses from metal theft hover around $1 billion

“The epidemic of copper wire theft affects everyone.  This legislation will aid law enforcement officers and prosecutors in their efforts to prevent this crime,” said Rep. Adams. “Metal theft not only leads to financial loss, but potentially loss of life.  Power outages and disruption of services resulting from thieves’ actions can jeopardize the lives of thousands of Floridians and affect emergency response time.”

Working hand-in-hand with Florida’s elected officials, Floridians for Copper & Metal Crime Prevention, a coalition of Florida business leaders, agricultural associations, law enforcement groups and local governments, hopes the new laws will bring an end to the secondary metal theft epidemic.

“Florida’s businesses and communities will now have an important law to help curtail these dangerous practices of metal theft, and our law enforcement officers will have more tools to aid them in their efforts to reduce this threat,” said Attorney General McCollum.

Sen. Victor Crist (R-Tampa) and Sen. Lee Constantine (R-Altamonte Springs) sponsored companion bills to HB 105, which crack down on those scrap metal dealers with unscrupulous business practices such as buying stolen copper and metal products.  Similarly, Sen. Charles Dean (R-Inverness) and Rep. Adam’s HB 799 specifically penalizes secondary metal thieves who target communication or utility services, which can jeopardize public safety. This new law makes damaging a communication or utility facility or interrupting services a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine regardless of the value of the stolen metal. 

The new legislation strengthens the trail to catch thieves and punishes any dishonest scrap dealer who contributes to the problem. Beginning tomorrow, secondary metal dealers are required to keep detailed records of their scrap metal transactions on an electronic database.  Required information includes:

  • Name and/or description of person from whom the goods were acquired  
  • Address and workplace
  • Verify personal identification cards
  • Home and work phone numbers
  • A thumbprint
  • Vehicle information and photograph
  • Videotape or digital image of the regulated metals being sold

Metal dealers who do not provide the required information and receive stolen property can be charged with a third-degree felony. An estimated 19 other states have passed similar laws.

“The economic stresses of today are enough to worry about without businesses and homeowners having to suffer the consequences of costly metal theft,” said Keyna Cory, Floridians for Copper & Metal Crime Prevention spokesperson. “However, this criminal trend is not only destructive, it is dangerous.  These new laws put procedures into place that will put perpetrators behind bars and keep people safe.”

For more information on HB 105 visit:
For more information on HB 799, visit:

Statements in support from bill co-sponsors and coalition members:

Sen. Victor Crist (R-Tampa)
 “Our communities, local businesses, and homeowners can rest assured knowing laws are in place that will not only put an end to metal theft, but also provide substantial punishment for those who commit or enable these crimes. If we want to deter crime, we have to implement policies that restrict criminal opportunity and this legislation does exactly that.”

Sen. Lee Constantine (R-Altamonte Springs)  
“Being environmentally responsible is a priority of this state and it is important to continue promoting recycling for its positive environmental impact and energy savings. However, we must ensure regulations are in order for collecting recyclable metals and that our efforts aren’t providing an easy opportunity for criminal activity. This legislation will allow secondary metal theft dealers to continue moving Florida towards sustainability while keeping thieves from profiting at the expense of innocent Floridians.”

Sen. Charles Dean (R-Inverness)
“Tomorrow, our state will see two laws go into effect that will ultimately save lives. When electric wires are tampered with, people who rely on home medical devices can be robbed of the power they need to run these devices.  Disrupted phone lines may prevent citizens from reaching out for help in a life-threatening emergency. Secondary metal theft is a dangerous and selfish crime and I am honored to have been part of crafting legislation that will help put an end to it.”

 Doug Bailey, Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc. Region Director of Government Affairs
“We commend the Legislature for taking this action to help deter scrap metal thieves from cashing in on stolen kegs and other metals. Keg theft represents a significant financial burden on brewers, and this measure is an important step to helping protect our investment and cracking down on those who break the law.”

Keith Swope, Tampa Roofing Company, Inc. President and Florida Roofing, Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors Association President
“Florida Roofing, Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors Association members have suffered significant loss due to the rash of metal theft across Florida.  Further, these crimes have led to increased costs and delays on many construction projects.  These new laws will serve as a deterrent to anyone who thinks that metal theft is an easy way to make a quick buck.”

Bill Willingham, Florida Electric Cooperatives Association Executive Vice President and General Manager
“This legislation will help protect our electric cooperatives that provide electricity to more than a million members from the Keys to the Panhandle from suffering disruption in services.  By cracking down on metal theft, we will alleviate the financial burden costly repairs and increased expenses associated with heightened security have placed on our members.” 

Susan Langston, Florida Telecommunication Association Executive Director
"Theft of copper wiring that damages telecommunications and utility facilities is a very real problem, with very human consequences.  Just think for a moment of the consequences of someone not being able to call 911 or other emergency calls because of service interruptions due to copper theft.  Under this new law, those who choose to steal and jeopardize or halt the provision of essential services will now face very serious criminal penalties for such acts."

Eric Criss, Beer Industry of Florida Executive Director
“Ultimately, consumers pay the price for metal theft – whether it’s beer kegs or copper telephone wires.  This new law provides relief to hard-working Floridians in tough economic times.”

Jim Spratt, Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association Director of Government Affairs
“The Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association (FNGLA) appreciates the leadership of Sen. Constantine and Rep. Troutman to pass HB 105. As a result of the current state and national economies, many nursery and landscape companies are dealing with increased theft at their businesses and on job sites. FNGLA is believes HB 105 will greatly assist metal recycling companies and law enforcement personnel identify and catch those individuals who choose to engage in the theft of metal products.”

Floridians for Copper & Metal Theft Crime Prevention


Coalition members include:

American Fire Sprinkler Association

Alarm Association of Florida

Anheuser-Busch Companies

Asphalt Contractors Association of Florida

Associated Builders & Contractors of Florida

Associated Industries of Florida


Beer Industry of Florida

Coors Brewing Company

City of Orlando


Florida Associated General Contractors

Florida Association of Electrical Contractors

Florida Building Material Association

Florida Carpenters Regional Council

Florida Electric Cooperatives Association

Florida Farm Bureau

Florida Fire Equipment Dealers Association

Florida Home Builders Association   

Florida Municipal Electric Association

Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscapers Association

Florida Refrigeration & Air Conditioning Contractors Association

Florida Retail Federation

Florida Roofing, Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning Contractors Association

Florida Solar Energy Industries Association 

Florida Swimming Pool Association

Florida Telecommunications Industry Association

Florida Transportation Builders Association

Florida Wall & Ceiling Contractors Association


Gulf Power

Hillsborough County

Independent Electrical Contractors of Florida

Miller Brewing


Underground Utility Contractors of Florida

United Pool & Spa Association