BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley testified Tuesday in support of Senate Bill 145, a bill that aims to address the illegal stripping and dealing of metal in the state.
The bill, An Act Regulating Secondary Metals Dealing, was discussed at a public hearing of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure. The legislation was filed in January and is co-sponsored by Coakley and Senator James Timilty.
"The foreclosure crisis has yet to slow down and many properties throughout Massachusetts continue to be abandoned and left vacant, allowing them to become havens for criminal activity such as copper stripping and theft," Coakley said. "Our legislation will help municipalities and law enforcement locate property owners or criminal offenders involved in stealing metal from abandoned properties or other structures."
The bill would create a central Secondary Metals Computer Registry and an Abandoned Property Registry, as well as penalties, licensure and record-keeping.
The bill establishes the Secondary Metals Computer Registry, which will be maintained by the Executive Office of Public Safety. The registry is designed to increase the availability of records and the identities of metal scrap dealers, sellers and their wares to law enforcement.
The legislation also allows for more accurate tracking of items and record keeping on their sellers, so that stolen metals can be more easily recovered. The bill establishes penalties of $2,500 and up to 2.5 years in jail for the first violation of licensing requirements, $5,000 and up to 2.5 years for the second offense, and up to $5,000 and up to five years in prison for the third offense, along with a permanent license revocation.
Coakley's office has seen an increase in reports of abandoned properties in the last few years, partially related to the mortgage foreclosure crisis. Many of these vacant properties can pose a public safety threat and are susceptible to building code violations, criminal activity such as copper stripping and theft, dilapidation, drug dealing and arson.
The bill, to counter this, mandates the creation of an Abandoned Property Registry, a two year pilot program established and maintained by the Division of Banks to catalog all abandoned, vacant and foreclosed properties in the state. The registry will assist municipalities and law enforcement officials in locating the owners of abandoned properties or the criminal offenders involved in stealing metal from such structures.