State Law Targets Copper Thefts

July 31, 2007 - Posted at 5:22 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO-A few extra bucks can quickly be earned with the disposal of scrap metals, but a new state law is tightening the belt on those trying to cash in.

"We feel like it's a big improvement over what we had. Plus, it helps law-enforcement understand easily what information they can access to help stop the theft of scrap materials," said Sam Hummelstein of Hummelstein Recycling.

Act-749 takes dozens of older laws and rewrites them requiring anyone selling scrap metal to provide identification.

"We have to have a photo i.d., a drivers license number, a full description of the items and the quantities and price. That information is obtained and held for three years, so law-enforcement can have access to that," said Hummelstein.

The law comes after a rash of copper thefts across the state, some even leading to death after the perpetrators broke into electrical sub-stations and were electrocuted.

"We worked with the utility companies and contractors to make sure there was a clear definition of the items that we just shouldn't be buying," said Hummelstein.

Now a list of ten items outlines those things that are commonly stolen---everything from highway and street signs to wiring that is marked for electrical and utility use.

"We have a long and unfortunately growing list of people that we simply won't by from. They've proven to us too many times that what they are bringing in is going to be stolen. So we just refuse to buy from them completley," said Hummelstein.

Sheriff Jack McCann says, overall companies like Hummelstein Recycling have always been helpful in tracking down possible theives.

"In the past if they thought the stuff might be stolen, they have called and said this is a little suspicious and we have arrested people for it," said McCann.

He says while the law is a good thing, the people likely find a new place to do business.

"Some of them will just take their stolen property to the other states. As long as the price as is high as it is for copper or whatever, it's going to be a problem," said McCann.

A problem that Hummelstein says is one that is seen almost everyday.

"It's pretty easy to tell if someone is bringing in new material, and they really shouldn't. So, if we see new copper tubing or wire coming in, and it's not that plumber or contractor bringing that in, we just refuse to buy it. We know that chances are, 9 times out of 10 that material is not theirs to sell," said Hummelstein.

Buys are also not allowed from minors unless they are under the supervision of an adult.

Hummelstein recycling clearly outlines their buying restrictions on their website at

They also are part of a national tracking effort, which reports any stolen materials to other buyers and law-enforcement.

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