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New Copper Theft Law Strictest in Country

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LAWTON, Okla_Copper thieves, beware. Thanks to a new law, the state of Oklahoma will soon have the strictest copper legislation in the country.

Lawton has already been leading the pack in measures taken against copper theft, but thanks to some outspoken businessmen and copper theft victims, the state has stepped up to the plate.

But will this new law really make a difference, or will it just cause a headache for those already doing the right thing?

"There's crooks that are stealing it and there are crooks that are buying it, " said scrap metal dealer Kenneth Priest, who has reservations about the new law.

Come November, scrap metal dealers cannot pay cash for a sale in amounts more than $1,000. They must establish the identity of the seller. The law will also increases the penalty for providing false information for a log book.

Which all sounds great, but Priest says, by city ordinance, he's already been required to do all of those things for two years.

"When they buy something at our shop here, they have to show ID. We have to take a picture of their driver's license. We take a picture of them, and we take a picture of the material they're selling, " said Priest.

He issues a check for amounts greater than $150 and reports every sale to a statewide database. And he said because of all of these measures he's lost customers.

"Like a lot of other laws we have, it makes it harder on the honest person. The honest person has to jump through more hoops to do the right thing.  The thief, the crook out there, will still steal his copper. He'll find someone to buy it, " Priest explained.

But copper theft victim, Richard McLaughlin is singing a different tune.

His businesses have been hit multiple times by thieves, and now his church has fallen victim too. 

He has just spent another $3,000 on security measures and thinks this new law is just what the doctor ordered.

"It's up to the yards to be able to distinguish and that's what they hit. This new law that came out, hopefully will slow it down, but Wichita Falls is only 40 minutes away, " said McLaughlin.

And because of proximity to Texas he's hoping other states will soon follow suit. He said until the bar is raised across the board he feels he might still be at risk.

"I hope Oklahoma will be the milestone that people will imitate. This is not an Oklahoma problem. It's not a Lawton problem. It's a problem everywhere."

The new law won't go into effect until November 1st, but Priest said in his eyes, the only way to truly crack down on the problem is for police to be more vigilant about checking in, especially in rural areas.

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