Apr 18, 2024 - Politics

Walz backs copper theft bill

TIm Walz looks at the bottom of a light post surrounded by Mayor Melvin Carter, Police Chief Todd Axtell and city crews

Gov. Tim Walz looks at a street lamp stripped of wire near the Como Lakeside Pavilion. Photo: Torey Van Oot/Axios

Gov. Tim Walz yesterday threw his support behind a bill aimed at curbing copper wire theft, calling it a "top priority."

Why it matters: Local leaders say thieves are stripping — and selling — wires from street lamps and other city infrastructure, leaving streets and parks in the dark.

  • The city of St. Paul says it spent $1.2 million on related repairs in 2023, four times the 2019 total.

Details: The legislation, working its way through committees, requires that people selling copper wire get a license from the state.

  • St. Paul police chief Axel Henry said while it might not stop all illicit trade, adding "another layer of security" will make it more difficult for thieves to make a quick buck.

What we're hearing: Walz said that while he hasn't gotten specific commitments from legislative leaders on the bill, he believes it will pass.

  • "I feel very confident that this is this type of stuff we should be doing this year," the governor said, citing a "relatively low" price tag and early success of a similar effort targeting catalytic converter thefts.

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