egislation announced to battle metal thieves

PALM DESERT, Calif. - Local assemblyman Brian Nestande has announced legislation he'll introduce in the State Legislature to provide additional resources and funding for law enforcement efforts to combat metal theft.

Nestande made the announcement at a press conference Tuesday morning at the Palm Desert Sheriff's Station.

"Every day seems to bring a new story of another victim of metal theft," said Nestande. "Our public safety officers are doing the best they can, but without more funding and resources they cannot truly address the problem. I believe this legislation will provide a long-term solution to stop thieves from reducing our communities to scrap metal."

The legislation will generate funding by assessing a small fee on payments made for scrap metal paid to sellers by metal recycling centers, according to a statement from Nestande's office.

The proceeds of these fees will go to a new state-wide Metal Theft Taskforce overseen by the California Department of Justice which will distribute the funds as grants to law enforcement agencies and prosecutors around the state.

These funds will also be available to regional law enforcement partnerships. Currently, most local law enforcement agencies do not have the resources or expertise to concentrate on metal theft crimes.

The legislation will also enhance a regional database which provides alerts to all scrap metal recyclers within 100 miles when a metal theft is reported, Nestande said in a statement. Metal thieves often steal from one city and then travel to another area to sell the stolen items to reduce suspicion. 

"I am pleased to support Assemblyman Nestande in his new pending metal theft legislation which will be designed to address the rising problem of metal theft that has devastated both the public and private sectors of our communities," said Richard Twiss, Indio Chief of Police.

The Coachella Valley Water District said the crime is at an all time high.

Officials reported that thieves stole 169 back flow devices in January alone. That's nearly the total amount of device that were stolen all year in 2013.

In January, investigators from the sheriff's Thermal Station and Riverside County District Attorney's Office conducted a spot check at the three businesses and found the recycling centers had purchased stolen metal.

"We welcome any legislation that will help curb metal theft from farmers and ranchers," added Steven Pastor, Executive Director of the Riverside County Farm Bureau. "Metal theft is out of control and has been a tremendous financial burden on the agriculture community."

The crimes have also hit local schools, causing some students to miss class due to a lack of water from metal theft.

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