Several arrested in metal theft sting operation

June 19, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Metal thieves are costing tax payers millions of dollars. It's a growing trend that's attracted criminals because of the relatively low risk until now. A special sting operation led to several arrests on Tuesday. The raids happened at seven different recycling yards in Contra Costa County.

The Pleasant Hill Recycling Center is just one of seven centers served with a warrant Tuesday. Law enforcement officials say the recycling centers are required to ensure that the metal they receive is not stolen. An undercover, multi-task agency operation was conducted and officials say that did not happen.

Law enforcement agencies from Contra Costa County served search warrants on facilities suspected in moving stolen metal and costing companies millions. Among them were three in Richmond: R.E.N. Recycling on Parr Boulevard, Action Metal Recycling on Pittsburgh Avenue, and Sims Recycling on South 4th Street. One Pittsburg location was also served a warrant -- Christensen Recycling.

"Copper theft is not a victimless crime, it's ripping off taxpayers," said Jim Allison, the communications officer for BART. He says that copper thefts have delayed projects and cost the agency hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"There has to be a point where we stop the chain of theft from ripping off the taxpayers to the thieves getting paid," said Allison.

And they aren't the only ones to suffer a financial hit; PG&E tells us that there have been more than 2,500 copper wire thefts since 2005, costing the utility more than $5.2 million in losses.

"We're just not taking it any more, we're actively working against the copper thieves," said Allison.

BART and other agencies, hit by metal theft have worked to have Assembly Bill 1508 passed. It closes the loophole in an existing law focused on the resale of copper and those who profit from it.

"If they have copper that they're bringing to a recycling center, they have to come back three days later to get paid," said Allison.

This helps to separate legitimate sellers from those who are moving stolen goods.

We're expecting to learn more information after we speak with the Contra Costa District Attorney.

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