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Klobuchar Wants Stiffer Penalties On Copper, Metal Thieves

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(credit: CBS) Holly Wagner
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — We’ve seen a big increase in thieves stealing copper and other metals over the past few years.

They may get a few hundred dollars by selling it for scrap, but they often cause thousands of dollars in damage.

The U.S. Department of Energy is estimating that about $900 million is spent every year because of damage caused by copper and metal thefts.

Back in November, thieves stole 64 copper pipes from the refrigeration system for the outdoor rinks at Phalen Park in St. Paul. It put the season in jeopardy for as many as 50 area hockey teams. The metal the thieves took was only worth a couple of hundred dollars, but the cost to replace and repair the damage was close to $20,000. It’s a growing problem across the country, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar wants to make the penalty for these types of thefts stiffer with a new federal law.

“We just appreciate the fact there is some attention being drawn to it. This is the second year in a row this has happened at Phalen Park, and it doesn’t happen in June,” said Bill Burkhart with the St. Paul Como Hockey Association. “It happens right before we are getting ready to flood the rinks, so we lose precious hours and every hour is very expensive to us.”

Phalen Park is hosting the St. Paul Winter Carnival Hockey Tournament this week. Because business owners who donated materials and labor, the rinks will be ready to go for the event.

Klobuchar said the legislation has bi-partisan support and she’s hoping it will get a committee hearing in the near future. Repairs were made this time around at Phalen Park with a material that is not metal or copper in hopes of deterring thieves from striking again.

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