Rep. Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan) wants to slap no less than a $5,000 fine and/or jail time for no less than one year for those caught selling or exporting copper wire in the CNMI.
Propst has introduced House Bill 19-174, or the “Copper Wire Theft Control Act of 2016,” which aims to prohibit the selling and exporting of copper wire.
The bill says copper wire theft has been a huge problem in the CNMI for decades and continues to escalate, costing government, businesses, and residents millions of dollars.
“The pursuit of copper has become so common that even copper candle holders at cemeteries are being stolen,” the bill states.
It notes a problem of how stolen copper wire becomes “virtually untraceable” and impossible to retrieve because stolen copper has no ID tags or serial numbers that make them identifiable like other stolen goods.
The bill also notes the over $700,000 that the Marianas Visitors Authority invested in Beach Road pathway lights that was sabotaged by copper wire thieves who stole some 1,360 feet of wire, with a follow up attempt a few weeks later.
“It would be safe to assume there will be future attempts and if copper wire thieves are successful, we will see a dark pathway once again,” the bill says.
The bill goes on to cite national statistics on state legislatures that show that 33 states have enacted laws to regulate scrap metal, inclusive of copper, sales and theft as of 2008. And that as of 2013, the total number increased to 49 states.
It also notes that other countries such as the Bahamas have banned the exporting of copper wire to eliminate the demand for stolen copper wire.