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BOISE Idaho lawmakers have come up with more ways to protect utility companies, contractors and scrap metal recycling businesses from the theft of copper wire.

New this session, the 2014 legislature passed a revision to an existing law; House Bill 518 which states in part, that Idaho scrap metal dealers are required to keep strict records for five years.

The crime comes with a felony, which took effect in July 2013.

It is a very unfortunate (and) unnecessary cost of doing business that affects the bottom line and ultimately customers, said Idaho Power spokesperson Lynette Berriochoa.

Tuesday, KTVB visited the Idaho Power Boise Operations Center (BOC) at Franklin Road and Five Mile Road in Boise. Berriochoa calls it the Home Depot of Idaho Power.

There are shelves, and shelves of materials that go out to crews working to fix power poles, substations and transmission lines.

Material Leader of the BOC, Vic Jones has been working there for 22 years, and has seen the impacts of copper wire theft.

That was a pallet that was actually stolen off of a job, explains Jones, as he points to a pallet on the ground with a few rings of copper wire placed on it.

Thieves took the copper wire in December, before crews were even able to use it. Jones explains that materials are staged at work sites for the crews before they get there, and that is when the $2,000 worth of copper wire was stolen.

When people have actually taken material off of a job, pretty much it can shut the job down and it is just a big cost, said Jones.

What about customers? How does it impact them?

It s a big cost, said Jones.

The crime of stealing copper wire has progressed over the years; Jones believes it s because of the economy.

The substations are being broken into we have transmission lines that are being vandalized, said Jones.

So one thing that Idaho Power is doing to protect their copper wire is using a product that actually places an identification number inside the wire, that way if a thief tries to sell it to a recycler, the number is tracked to a database.

Try to take any sort of steps to take the burden off the recyclers, but really preserve the spirit of the law and try to minimize any kind of metal theft overall, said Berriochoa.

With the addition of identification numbers and the revisions to House Bill 518, it give officials hopes that copper wire thefts will start to decrease.



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