New state law toughens penalties for copper thieves, buyers

'If no one wants to buy stolen copper, thieves will have no reason to steal it' -- State Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan

With copper thefts a growing problem in the area, Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill advanced by State Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan (D-15th) that stiffens penalties for both buyer and sellers.

The bill, AB 1971, makes it clear that the theft of copper -- along with stainless steel and aluminum -- from public property is an act of vandalism in addition to a theft. It also increases the potential fine from $250 to $1,000 for those who knowingly buy copper without verifying that it has been legally obtained.

"Copper theft has been a rapidly increasing problem for our public agencies," Buchanan said. "By incentivizing purchasers to look more closely at the copper they are buying we hope this bill will be another deterrent against this type of theft. If no one wants to buy stolen copper, thieves will have no reason to steal it."

San Ramon and Danville have both been targets for copper thieves in recent years, with thousands of dollars in copper wiring and alloys stolen.

In June 2011, thieves broke into the Veterans Memorial Building construction site in Danville, stealing copper wire and construction tools. About a month later, approximately $2,000 worth of copper wire was stolen from the PG&E Testing Facility on Crow Canyon Road. Kevin Lundberg, 29, a Castro Valley resident, was arrested for grand theft and possession of stolen property in that theft.

A man and woman were arrested in 2010 after being found with stolen copper wire and burglary tools. That was around the time that copper wiring was stolen from Sycamore Valley Park, and a plaque listing names of those killed in World War II was taken from the All Wars Memorial at Oak Hill Park on Stone Valley Road.

Copper theft may not sound lucrative, but in 2010 police found one person who had cashed checks for copper sales adding up to $78,000.

BART has also been a target for copper thieves.

"Copper theft from public transit agencies is not only financially costly but critical public threat to public safety," Buchanan pointed out. "Damage to train tracks, traffic lights, and other transit infrastructure creates an unacceptable risk to the public that this bill will work to help stop."

Last month, a task force that included local law enforcement agencies, the district attorney's and sheriff's offices, PG&E, AT&T, Union Pacific Railroad and BART collaborated in the undercover operation that led to the serving of search warrants at seven junk dealers and recycling centers in Contra Costa County.

At each of the recycling centers, police seized documents and stolen materials such as copper wire and communications cables apparently purchased from thieves, according to the district attorney's office.

Buchanan's bill will take effect Jan. 1, 2013.


Like this comment
Posted by Al Phillips, Candidate AD 16
a resident of Downtown
on Jul 23, 2012 at 8:52 am

I find it interesting that Joan Buchanan would be tough on those that steal metal and then vote down a bill that would have helped to protect children from predatory teachers. I guess she feels that precious metals more valuable than precious children

Like this comment
Posted by William
a resident of Sycamore Place
on Jul 23, 2012 at 10:30 am

Uhhhhh... yes copper is more valuable than children. Currently copper is running at over $4/pound. The value of a child, after accounting for food, college, clothing, and other costs is well into the negative!

Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jul 23, 2012 at 12:35 pm

What's important is that PG&E needs their copper wire so they can hook-up to the high speed rail and make obscene amounts of money. After all in a few more years they will have another president wanting to retire with a 35 million dollar golden handshake.

What's more important, taking legal short cuts to weed out and prosecute predatory teachers or allowing PG&E unlimited profits. PG&E wins every time.

Like this comment
Posted by local
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Are our laws on stealing copper really that lax? I would think the problem is catching and convicting those people, not changing the laws.

I also agree that it is ironic that Buchanan is more interested in the theft of copper than predatory teachers that put our kids at risk. I guess that will change once the copper folks have a strong union. It would benefit the union to have copper stolen so that people have to keep purchasing more copper.

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Posted by franco
a resident of Vineyard Hills
on Jul 23, 2012 at 8:20 pm

franco is a registered user.

I think the posters are missing the point as well as the laughability index in this article....

It says the bill adds vandalism to the theft charge and raises the fine to $1000 from $250... Wowwww! Wheee! All you criminals have now been served notice. Not only will you be charged with felony crime resulting in a trip to the pokey of some length, you will be fined $1000! Take that, criminals. Now, that's deterrent! I doubt we will have anymore metal thefts if this bill passes.

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Posted by liberalism is a disease
a resident of Birdland
on Jul 24, 2012 at 8:50 am

liberalism is a disease is a registered user.

That fine is almost as high as the one imposed on Hayashi. Maybe Buchanan could focus on increasing shoplifting fines as well.

In the meantime, if you see Hayashi near your wiring or pipes, it's probably because she needs the copper to help with funding for the next election cycle. She's a wonderful public servant and deserves your vote because she has your best interest in mind. LOL

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Posted by Steve
a resident of Parkside
on Jul 24, 2012 at 9:22 am

Life inprisonment for all copper thiefs. Immediate inprisonment and removal of pension for any teacher suspected of abusing a child. Do away with union; do away with grievince sessions; do away with jury system. Lock em up. Problem solved. Its for the kids and its good for my pocket book.

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Posted by Steve
a resident of Stoneridge
on Jul 24, 2012 at 11:53 am

What's the use of new penalties when police don't even respond to theft: Web Link

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Posted by liberalism is a disease
a resident of Birdland
on Jul 24, 2012 at 1:40 pm

liberalism is a disease is a registered user.

The article posted above is from 2010. I can only imagine, under Jean Quan's leadership that things have drastically improved in Oakland and all crime is down.

Like this comment
Posted by Jersey Malcolm
a resident of Deer Oaks/Twelve Oaks
on Jul 24, 2012 at 1:52 pm

I guess they might respond to more crime if there were more of them. But who wants to pay for police to protect the lives of others? I don't. If everybody just carried a gun we wouldn't need cops at all. Because I'm level headed, and if your not thats probably because your mentally diseased like all liberals are. Ha!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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