WAPATO, Wash.--It's a crime often found in rural areas of Central Washington, but victims of metal theft sometimes feel like they're forgotten.
That's why Representative Matt Manweller is working with 18 other lawmakers to drastically reduce incidents of metal theft.
"They take things such as brass sprinklers, aluminum ladders," said Philip Doornink, a farmer and victim of metal theft. "They'll take screens that we use on our pumps, including the pump also."
In the Lower Valley, it seems like almost everyone's been a target of metal theft.
"Everything's always difficult to replace," said Doornink. "Sprinklers are the worst because it takes a lot of time to fix the sprinklers. You have to buy more PVC and you have to buy couplers and glue, and then you have to put in a lot of labor to it. Very frustrating. Something needs to be done about it."
The State Legislature hopes to help people like Doornink with a new bill that cracks down on metal theft. Under the legislation, thieves could face harsher penalties, and the businesses they try to sell to will see more regulations. The bill would also require scrap-metal buyers to pay a fee for a license, and file a $10,000 bond with the Department of Licensing. They would also have to check customers criminal history through a "no-buy" database created by the state.
"If somebody brings in a bunch of sprinklers and if they're coming in once a week and they're going to different scrap yards, then I think maybe they should have some kind of record of what they're bringing in," said Doornink. "Then that way would help cross reference what's going on."
Some targets of metal theft said they don't know if the proposal goes far enough to make a difference. However, they believe it's a step in the right direction to get people talking about the ongoing problem.
The proposal also includes looking at the cost of repairs to determine penalty amounts. Victims said this is important because when thieves steal, they also break, which often costs thousands of dollars to repair the damaged pieces.
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