Tough Copper Bill Targets Shady Scrap Metal Dealers

James Banigan
James Banigan
Maj. Kurt Kendro
Maj. Kurt Kendro

HONOLULU (KHNL) - A new law could make it tougher for unscrupulous scrap metal dealers. A Hawaii senate committee passes a bill on Tuesday targeting dealers who buy stolen copper.

House Bill 373 focuses solely on copper. It puts more pressure on scrap metal dealers like the one behind me to verify they're not receiving stolen copper. It also makes it harder for copper thieves.

James Banigan operates a steel plant at Campbell Industrial Park. With the recent string of copper thefts, he and others in the scrap metal industry got together to protect their livelihood.

"We did not condone what was going on, we never have, and we wanted to work out some resolution that would eventually lead to some legislation that we could all live with," said Banigan.

The house bill requires dealers to photograph the copper they take in. It also makes dealers verify the seller's ID. It requires sellers to have bill of sales for copper worth more than $50. The dealer then needs to keep records up to three years.

Banigan says he got involved because he doesn't want shady dealers ruining his industry.

"We're legitimate business people, and we don't want to be affected by the unscrupulous dealers that are buying this material," he said.

The bill came out of a gathering of not only the scrap metal industry, but law enforcement officials as well. The goal? To send a strong message to copper thieves.

"It will make it difficult for people who are stealing copper and trying to recycle these products and get money from them," said Maj. Kurt Kendro of the Honolulu Police Department. "So, I'm hoping it will have a positive impact on the crime problem regarding copper."

Banigan has a message for copper thieves and shady dealers.

"Follow the law," he said. "We're all trying to follow the law. Follow the law."

The bill would also increase fines for dealers who break the law, and repeat offenders could get their license taken away.

The bill now goes to the full senate for a second reading. If it all goes smoothly, it will end up at the governor's desk by May.