Metal thieves need to feel the heat
Every time thieves steal wiring, they are doing far more damage than they realize. That is why we were glad to see the recent sting operation to nab not only thieves, but those recyclers who are not aware or not following the laws to deter illegal metal thefts. We also hope local law enforcement keeps up the pressure.
The theft of metal takes many forms, but most damaging is the theft of utility wiring. Most common, because it is easy to pull off, is stealing wiring from irrigation pumps that dot the landscape of Tulare County. The Porterville area is most susceptible to those thefts because many of those pumps are located within groves and out of sight. Wind machines are also popular targets
But, it is not just farmers who are targets. It is not uncommon for those thieves to steal anything metal, including aluminum siding, metal posts and even bicycles.
In 2008, the state Legislature took action to make it harder for thieves to fence their stolen goods. Recyclers now must hold the items people are trying to sell for three days before making payment. They must photograph the metal and the person selling it. They must document if a vehicle is used to bring in the items. They need to acquire a finger print of the seller.
More importantly, recyclers are not to accept utility wiring and that is where many of those arrested last week were in violation.
While a thief may get $50 to $100 for what they stole, the loss to the farmer can be in excess of several thousands of dollars. The thieves are not careful in how they remove the wiring, so they do extensive damage. On top of those costs, is damage that could be done to a crop if the farmer cannot get water to it.
Metal thefts, especially copper wiring, died down a bit when the price for those metals dropped, but that price has risen lately and, unfortunately, so have the instances of theft.
We commend the sheriff and his officers for cracking down and encourage residents to report suspicious activities in the rural areas.