Metal thieves could soon face fines in addition to penalties.
A bill advancing through an Assembly committee aims to add a $100 fine for first-time offenders and $200 for a repeat offenders, in addition to the current penalties for theft.
The news comes as county firefighters had trouble extinguishing a fire at the home of a Hesperia man Wednesday because copper fittings were missing from all the hydrants on the block. Firefighters needed more time to bring in water to the location, and the fire caused significant damage to the home.
The metal theft bill, authored by Assemblyman John J. Benoit, R-Bermuda Dunes, received unanimous approval in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, Benoit’s office announced Wednesday.
The rising price of metals, such as copper, has become an invitation for thieves looking for a quick buck.
In San Bernardino County, metal theft has soared to account for one-third of property crimes, rising from an average of two incidents per month seven years ago to 10 thefts per week, according to the assemblyman. In neighboring Riverside County, more than 1,000 metal theft incidents were reported in 2007 resulting in $2.6 million worth of metal losses.
Currently, metal theft can be charged as grand theft, which carries a sentence of one year in jail, if a person steals an amount worth over $400, according to the California Penal Code. If the bill passes, revenue collected will stay in the local community for enforcement.