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Dec 3, 2012 12:36 AM by Nathan O'Neal

State lawmakers push for crackdown on metal thefts

TUCSON - State lawmakers are hoping to crack down on metal theft as the trend plagues both Southern Arizona and the state.

The Tucson Chinese Cultural Center is just one example that has been hit hard by thieves, taking advantage of the metal fixtures all around the property.

As Jason Wong surveyed the metal fixtures that were literally ripped off of the Chinese Cultural Center, he is reminded every day not only of the financial cost that has amounted to thousands of dollars. He is also reminded of the hardship that the thefts have brought along with it.

"There's a lot of better use for the money besides repairing metal theft damage," Wong said.

It's forced the center to take thousands of dollars of donations meant for kids to learn about Chinese Culture and repurpose it to repair and replace those fixtures.

It's a problems that has spread like wildfire throughout the state.

"It's a multimillion dollar crime down here in Tucson and statewide it's into the tens of millions of dollars," said Arizona State Representative Ted Vogt.

Vogt is one of several lawmakers pushing for harsher punishments for metal thefts.

"It is costing not only business owners but tax payers lots and lots of money, and I think Arizona is leading the way but we just want to have a zero tolerance for this type of crime," Vogt said.

That's a no tolerance policy that Vogt and others like him hope will help curb the appeal of metal theft.

"If you are caught stealing metal, whether it's copper whatever the scrap metal is, you are going to do some jail time," Vogt said of the crackdown.

That's an idea echoed by Jason Wong as he just hopes folks around the state will remain vigilant.

"We as a greater community need to be more alert on preventing metal theft," Wong said.

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