Investigation prompts bill targeting battery thieves

Lawmakers add batteries to list of regulated metals to cut down on battery thefts

By Jennifer Waugh - The Morning Show anchor, I-Team reporter
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Channel 4 investigation into thieves targeting the batteries that power road signs that warn drivers of construction and road closures prompted Florida lawmakers to pass a bill aimed at reducing those thefts.

After WJXT's stories were shown around the state Capitol in Tallahassee, the state House and Senate passed companion bills aimed at reducing those thefts.

"Safety is the key. If you can't make the state safe, you can't do anything else," said state Rep. David Hood, R-Daytona Beach.

When Hook found out construction signs around the state were being sabotaged for their batteries, he says he didn't hesitate to act.

"If we can't keep people from stealing the lead batteries, people don't have the safety signs they need to make sure they don't drive somewhere they shouldn't drive, or drive too fast, then what are we doing here? That's the bottom line," said Hood.

Channel 4 first told showed in February that Jacksonville police were tracking hundreds of battery thefts from road signs. It was a problem so rampant, ACME Barricades said it had more than 500 batteries stolen in six months around the state.

One sign contains between six to eight batteries. Thieves sell the batteries to recyclers for $10-15 each.

Right after that story aired, Hood added language that would include batteries on a list of metals regulated by the state.

"After you called me, I called a couple of other people and asked them and they said, ‘Yeah this is a huge problem,'" said Bob Burleson, president of the Florida Transportation Builder's Association.

Burleson represents road construction companies throughout our state.

"I took your story, I printed it out, took it over to Rep. Hood and Sen.Evers, and that was just about all the convincing, they didn't really need a lot of convincing, but that was enough. Your story kind of sold it and I give you a ton of credit for this happening," Burleson said.

The companion bills passed the House and Senate last week. If Gov. Rick Scott signs the bill into law, it means anyone who tries to sell two or more of the lead batteries has to prove to the scrap yard that they owned the batteries and they weren't stolen.

"Hopefully this particular legislation will stop the bad people from stealing things and hurting people because they are stealing," said Hood.

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