SAIPAN LAWMAKERS TAKE ACTION TO CURB COPPER THEFT

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SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, May 2) – A new Commonwealth law prohibits recycling centers from shipping out of the Mariana Islands copper wire within 45 days of its purchase.

House Bill 15-200, which was offered by Rep. Ray Yumul, Ind.-Saipan, and 17 other lawmakers, became Public Law 15-55 on April 24.

Gov. Benigno R. Fitial said he signed the bill because he believes it will help law enforcers to curb the rampant stealing of copper wire in the commonwealth.

However, he noted that the new law does not have a penalty provision for those who do not comply with the 45-day waiting period.

"I recommend that the Legislature consider amending the legislation to provide for such a penalty, which should assist us in its enforcement," he added.

According to lawmakers, the theft of copper and other wire has become a serious problem for residents and businesses in the CNMI.

"The thefts not only cause business owners and taxpayers financial loss but they also interfere with the provision of electricity to homes, stores, and other critical infrastructure. Too often, this wire is stolen, stripped down and resold as after-market wire," the new law stated. "The Legislature finds that it is necessary to implement a 45-day waiting period prior to the sale of after-market copper wire to prevent the further destruction of property in the commonwealth," it added.

According to the law, no recycled product is to be removed from the commonwealth within 45 days after the date of purchase by the recycler, unless cleared by the Department of Public Safety and the Division of Customs.

DPS and Customs are mandated to "investigate shipments of recycled products for compliance."

Copper wire sold to recycling centers here is shipped to China and other countries.

Meanwhile, Thieves broke in through a window in a day care center in Koblerville, Saipan and stole about 100 feet of copper wire.

It is the first copper wire theft reported to the police since April 9.

Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Lei Ogumoro said the incident happened at Little Angels Day Care.

The suspects broke in through a window and cut about 100 feet of copper wire from the kitchen, living room and two other rooms.

DPS said the day care center was last secured on Wednesday at 5:45 p.m.

Another theft incident in Koblerville was reported to the police on Saturday night.

Romeo T. Guevarra came to DPS on Saturday at 1:42 p.m. and reported that a box containing assorted tools with an estimated value of US$1,500 was stolen from his residence in Koblerville.

Guevarra said the tools were last seen on April 21, 2007.

DPS urges anyone having information about any of these crimes to call Crime Stoppers at 234-7272. All calls are kept anonymous and no caller ID is used. A reward of up to US$1,000 is given for any information leading to an arrest.

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