BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    


          |SENATE RULES COMMITTEE            |                  AB 2298|
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                                 THIRD READING

          Bill No:  AB 2298
          Author:   Ma (D)
          Amended:  8/22/12 in Senate
          Vote:     21

          SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE  :  7-0, 8/16/12
          AYES:  Kehoe, Walters, Alquist, Dutton, Lieu, Price, 

           ASSEMBLY FLOOR  :  Not relevant

           SUBJECT  :    Metal theft:  study

           SOURCE  :     California Farm Bureau Federation

           DIGEST  :    This bill requires the Department of Justice to 
          study the prevalence of metal theft in California and 
          report their findings to the legislature by January 1, 

           ANALYSIS  :    This bill requires, on or before January 1, 
          2014, the Department of Justice to study the prevalence of 
          metal theft in California and make recommendations to the 
          Legislature in a report addressing the tools and resources 
          that would be required by local law enforcement and 
          district attorneys in order to successfully interdict the 
          commission of metal theft and related metal recycling 


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          The report also shall include, but not be limited to, an 
          analysis of the existing activities of rural crime 
          prevention programs authorized pursuant to Section 14171 
          and 14181 with regard to metal theft and related metal 
          recycling crimes, and the extent to which additional 
          regional task forces could assist in deterring, 
          investigation, and prosecuting metal theft and related 
          metal recycling crimes.

          The report shall be submitted in compliance with Government 
          Code Section 9795.

          The provisions of this bill sunset on January 1, 2018.


          According to the author:

            Metal theft is a serious problem affecting the state.  
            With the price of a pound of copper increasing from $0.70 
            in 2001 to $4.00 per pound now, the rate of metal theft 
            has dramatically increased.  Counties and news media have 
            been reporting a sharp uptick in the incidences of metal 
            theft as thieves commonly steal metal from sites, such as 
            construction zones, railroads and telephone poles, and 
            sell it for a sizeable profit.

            California farmers and ranchers, in particular, are 
            seeing sharp increases in the rate of metal theft.  
            Thieves strip copper wires and pipes from farm equipment 
            and orchards. The cost of replacing copper wire on an 
            irrigation pump ranges from $1,500 to $4,000.  When the 
            irrigation pump is damaged in a theft, the repair costs 
            can reach tens of thousands of dollars.  Yet this cost 
            only covers repair of the pump, not the cost of potential 
            crop damage caused by lack of irrigation while the pump 
            was unusable.  

            The office has convened a stakeholder meeting that 
            included law enforcement, recyclers, and utilities, among 
            others.  While there are many laws on the books that seek 
            to address the rising rates of metal theft, law 
            enforcement lacks the resources to dedicate time and 


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            personnel for the investigation and prosecution of metal 
            theft and other rural crimes. 

            Originally created in 1996, the Central Valley Rural 
            Crime Prevention Program (Chapter 327, Statutes 1996).  
            The program allows Tulare, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Merced, 
            San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Madera to enter into a 
            joint-powers agreement to share resources, personnel 
            hours and information regarding rural crimes, including 
            metal theft.  The Central Coast Rural Crime Prevention 
            was similarly created and modeled after the Central 
            Valley program and includes Monterey, San Benito, Santa 
            Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Santa Cruz counties.

            These programs allowed counties the option to establish a 
            multiagency task force to create and implement strategies 
            at preventing agricultural crimes.  A 2002 LAO report 
            found that the "program's rate of arrests, prosecutions, 
            and convictions were higher than the statewide average."  
            Additionally, "efforts to recover lost equipment have 
            been successful in recovering nearly half of each dollar 
            reported lost."  The report also noted that the 
            Legislature should "determine whether to limit the 
            program to the current eight counties or to make it 
            available to other counties with agricultural 

           Prior Legislation to Curb Metal Theft
          On May 14, 2012, the Senate approved SB 1387 (Emmerson) by 
          a vote of 37-0.  The bill prohibits junk dealers and 
          recyclers from possessing any fire hydrant, fire department 
          connection, manhole cover or backflow device without a 
          written certification on the letterhead of the agency 
          previously owning the material, and adds fire hydrants, 
          manhole covers and backflow devices to the list of items 
          which, if any person possesses, knowing they were stolen, 
          would receive an additional fine of up to $3,000.  (Penal 
          Code Section 496e.)  The bill is currently on Assembly 
          Third Reading.

          In 2011, the Legislature created a separate offense of 
          grand theft of copper material.  (AB 316 (Carter), Chapter 
          317, Statutes of 2011)


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          In 2009, the Legislature passed the following measures to 
          address the growing problem of metal theft:

           SB 447 (Maldonado), Chapter 732, Statutes of 2009, 
            assists local law enforcement officials in quickly 
            investigating stolen metal and apprehending thieves by 
            requiring scrap metal dealers and recyclers to report 
            what materials are being scrapped at their facilities and 
            by whom on a daily basis.  These rules already apply to 
            pawn shop dealers.

           SB 691 (Calderon), Chapter 720, Statutes of 2009, 
            requires junk dealers and recyclers to take thumbprints 
            of individuals selling copper, copper alloys, aluminum 
            and stainless steel.  Sellers must also show a government 
            identification (ID) and proof of their current address.  
            Recyclers who violate the law face suspension or 
            revocation of their business license and increased fines 
            and jail time. 

           AB 844 (Berryhill), Chapter 731, Statutes of 2009, 
            requires recyclers to hold payment for three days, check 
            a photo ID and take a thumbprint of anyone selling scrap 
            metals.  AB 844 also requires any person convicted of 
            metal theft to pay restitution for the materials stolen 
            and for any collateral damage caused during the theft. 

           FISCAL EFFECT  :    Appropriation:  No   Fiscal Com.:  Yes   
          Local:  No

           SUPPORT  :   (Verified  8/21/12)

          California Farm Bureau Federation (source)

          RJG:m  8/22/12   Senate Floor Analyses 

                         SUPPORT/OPPOSITION:  SEE ABOVE

                                ****  END  **** 


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