The legislation, which takes effect July 1, will allow for law enforcement and the private sector to collaborate to prevent metal thefts, which have increased in recent years.
State leaders including Secretary of State Michael Watson, Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann, District Attorney Crosby Parker, State Senator Mike Thompson and State Representative Kevin Felsher joined on the Coast on Wednesday to promote the soon to be law.
Lawmakers have teamed with local law enforcement and the business community to help enhance public safety in communities across Mississippi. In recent months, local law enforcement agencies have seen a rise in metal thefts.
In crafting the legislation, lawmakers worked closely with scrap-metal dealers and law enforcement to enhance current laws and provide consistency in reporting and record-keeping for dealers across the state. This reporting and record-keeping will be coordinated through the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office.
The revised and streamlined process captures copper wiring used in communications infrastructure and catalytic converters.
The legislation attempts to do the following:
- Provides additional pathways to collaboration between law enforcement and the private sector
- Establishes standard processes to allow for consistency in reporting and streamline record-keeping processes for scrap metal dealers
- Enhances penalties associated with metal theft
“We can’t anticipate when an emergency situation will arise, and any time our local phone lines are interrupted, residents in our community are at risk,” said State Representative Kevin Felsher. “This is a critical issue for communities across the state, and it’s anticipated that the enhanced penalties will lead perpetrators to reconsider their actions.”
The Secretary of State’s office and Mississippi law enforcement will now have additional tools to deter this type of crime, while streamlining the reporting process. Criminal penalties will include increased fines and other financial penalties as well as increased minimum sentences.
“This has been a great example of law enforcement agencies working closely with scrap-metal dealers, local businesses, and our legislature in passing legislation that will make a difference. The legislation now specifically protects catalytic converters and copper wiring. It not only provides law enforcement with a statute that protects the property of our citizens and businesses, but also provides prosecutors throughout the State with a law to criminally hold the wrongdoers accountable,” said District Attorney Crosby Parker.
Thefts this year have taken place in Hinds, Warren and Washington counties, as well as others and have resulted in interruptions in phone services for hundreds of people. These thefts have also caused thousands of dollars in damages.
“We are investing in communities across the state to keep businesses and residents connected, and we appreciate the work that was done this past session to help preserve and protect communications infrastructure from theft in Mississippi, so everyone can remain connected,” said Mayo Flynt, president of AT&T Mississippi.