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Developer: Stronger laws needed against copper theft

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PHOENIX  - To deter copper thieves at his Valley commercial properties, Michael Pollack has installed security cameras at more than 100 locations and had air conditioning coils welded to the units.

Because not everyone is able to take such precautions, Pollack, president and founder of Michael A. Pollack Real Estate Investments, told a panel of state lawmakers Thursday the government should do more to help.

“Those people all deserve the attention and the brainpower that you folks have, and that our elected officials have, to try to solve a problem we don’t seem to be able to solve,” Pollack told members of the Metal Theft Ad Hoc Study Committee.

Law enforcement officials and representatives from the scrap metal industry also addressed the panel.

The committee is chaired by Rep. Tom Forese, R-Gilbert, and also includes Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, and Rep. Ted Vogt, R-Tucson.

Vogt co-sponsored two metal theft-related bills earlier this year with Forese. One of those, aimed at boosting penalties for copper theft, was signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer.

While Pollack called for tougher laws, Scott Horne, the vice president and general counsel of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, said current regulations haven’t stopped thieves and rogue operators.

“Instead, it’s served primarily to impose, in many cases, burdensome requirements on the legitimate, tax-paying, job-creating businesses that have a very significant vested interest in the economic well-being of their state and their communities,” Horne said.

He and two others representing the scrap metal industry recommended, among other things, stricter enforcement of existing laws.

Representatives from police departments described for the lawmakers what they called a widespread problem. Sgt. Jodie Martinez of the Mesa Police Department said her city alone had nearly $2.9 million worth of metal stolen in 2011.

Forese’s committee will report its findings and submit recommendations for action by the end of the year.