Senator Schumer proposes new laws to prevent copper theft

By Eric Jankiewicz

In response to last week’s copper theft that left thousands of commuters on the A line in the Rockaways scrambling to find alternative transportation, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) introduced legislation that would make it harder for copper thieves to profit from their spoils. He cosponsored the bill withSenator Klobuchar (D-MN),

“It is time to put thieves who steal scrap metal from critical mass transit infrastructure, as well as homes and businesses, behind ironclad bars,” Schumer said. “Every ounce of copper or metal stolen from New York’s critical infrastructure could cause the next big commuter delay, a subway line suspension or even a disaster. That’s why this plan must be enacted—because it takes the cold-hard-cash incentive out of the metal theft equation and would deter metal thieves before they steal.”

Schumer proposed laws to require people who sell metal to scrap yards to provide proof of ownership. It would also require metal sellers to be given checks instead of cash. And it would make it a federal offense to steal metal from “critical” infrastructures such as the train system. The legislation, Schumer said, is meant to “combat the rash of metal theft occurring here in New York City.”

He said that as the price of copper continues to rise, there has been a significant increase of scrap metal burglaries and larcenies in New York City. Along with MTA rail lines being the target, other industries and residents in New York City have been targeted. The problem, according to Schumer, has reached such a critical level that an FBI report called metal theft “a threat to public safety and to U.S. critical infrastructure.”

Morning commuters who used the A and C lines last week had to find alternative routes after MTA officials discovered that a dozen sites on the train tracks in Howard Beach had been stripped of copper wiring that power the trains. According to MTA officials, around 500 feet of inch-thick cable was stripped from the rails in the middle of the night. Police estimated that the total worth of the stolen copper is $1,000. They have alerted all junk and scrap yards that buy metal to watch out for the stolen goods.

In the past others have targeted MTA’s copper, which can be a gold mine to thieves since copper is used to insulate so many different wires and power lines along the trains. In 2013, more than 15 MTA employees working for the LIRR were arrested for stealing copper wire from a rail yard, according to Schumer. Overall, the employees netted over $250,000. That year there were 56 incidents of copper theft on the LIRR and in 2014 there were 27 incidents, according to polices.

“With an increasing number metal thefts over the past few years, particularly along rail lines that can in turn lead to mass transit delays. The time is now to give local law enforcement the tools to find these thieves and put them behind bars,” Schumer said.