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Metal theft: Federal Way leaders lobby for tougher laws

In December 2012, the Multi-Service Center in Federal Way reported that unknown suspects wrecked the HVAC system and cut and stole all the copper pipes and wiring. - Courtesy photo
In December 2012, the Multi-Service Center in Federal Way reported that unknown suspects wrecked the HVAC system and cut and stole all the copper pipes and wiring.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Elected officials from Federal Way are pushing for state legislation intended to reduce metal theft.

The problem has increased alongside the rising costs of scrap metal. Federal Way reported a loss of $110,000 in 2012 from copper wire theft. In May, thieves stole about 4 miles of copper wire from Sound Transit's Link track in Tukwila.

And this past Wednesday, two men were arrested after stealing nearly $100,000 in metal from a Tacoma rail yard.

A copper wire theft of $100 can cost $5,000 or more to repair, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

A public hearing was held Feb. 5 for House Bill 1552, co-sponsored by State Rep. Roger Freeman (D-District 30). Federal Way Mayor Skip Priest and Deputy Mayor Jim Ferrell lobbied before the House Committee on Public Safety.

Taxpayers ultimately pick up the cost of metal theft, which can have a ripple effect on the community. In August 2012, after thieves wiped out the lighting system at Celebration Park, a soccer tournament was almost canceled.

State Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland) is taking the lead on the metal theft bill. According to a summary, the bill proposes to:

• Create a licensing system for scrap metal businesses.

• Expand criminal penalties for metal theft and malicious mischief.

• Allow for civil forfeiture for any property used in the commission of a crime involving stolen scrap metal.

• Create a database for scrap metal businesses to determine whether a seller has a criminal conviction.

• Create the Washington Metal Theft Prevention Authority.

Another public hearing for HB 1552 is scheduled for 8 a.m. Feb. 12, and the bill will go to executive session Feb. 14. The bill is still in the committee process and no vote has been taken.

State Sen. Tracey Eide (D-District 30) proposed Senate Bill 5413 that will "expand metal theft provisions relating to costs to repair physical damage, penalties, and seizure and forfeiture," according to Eide's office. The bill awaits scheduling for a hearing.

Learn more

• To read more about metal theft in Federal Way, click here.

• To learn more about HB 1552, click here.

• To learn more about SB 5413, click here.

 

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