Scrap Theft Penalties Could Increase

A Kansas House panel is reviewing a bill to significantly increase penalties for scrap metal theft.

The House Judiciary Committee had a hearing Monday on a bill to make damaging a building or other structure to steal scrap a felony punishable by up to 19 months in jail for a first offense.

Farm and law enforcement groups said scrap thieves often do thousands of dollars in damage when removing precious metals.

But Democratic Rep. Jim Ward of Wichita said that the state could not afford more-crowded prisons and suggested that the bill be coupled with legislation to reduce other prisoners’ sentences.

Republican Rep. Craig McPherson of Overland Park also said provisions in the measure to track scrap items would increase bureaucracy.

The Senate passed the bill in February.