They’re targeting construction sites, empty buildings and even cemeteries in New Jersey.

Scrap metal thieves have removed copper wiring from street lamps, stripped abandoned properties and foreclosed homes of any metal and targeted bronze and aluminum flag holders that decorate the graves of deceased veterans.

Now, Assembly Democrats Angel Fuentes, Gilbert “Whip” Wilson, Celeste Riley, Shavonda Sumter and Benjie Wimberly are looking to stop this growing problem. They’ve introduced legislation that would strengthen regulations on scrap metal businesses.

Current law requires scrap metal businesses to maintain records only on transactions in excess of one hundred pounds or $50 for at least five years. Fuentes’ bill would require scrap metal businesses to maintain records on every transaction and send all copies of records maintained to the appropriate law enforcement agency at the end of each business day.

“This is an ongoing problem in Camden and is likely happening throughout the state,” said Fuentes. “Our cities, already stretched thin financially due to the country’s dire economic circumstances, are often victims to vandals looking for their next dollar. Damage to public infrastructure often cannot be readily or cheaply fixed.”

“Unfortunately, this problem also affects our private residents in both urban and suburban settings, whose property is at risk as well. This is an issue that cannot be ignored any longer. It’s destroying the quality of life and becoming quite the financial hardship to the owners who have to replace the metal that’s being stolen,” said Fuentes. “In Deptford earlier this month, there was $20,000 in damage to several stores after someone stole metal from a rooftop air conditioning unit.”

Under the bill, scrap metal businesses also would be required to limit payment for materials received to a non-transferable check, mailed to the seller’s provided address. All deliveries of scrap metal must be made in a motor vehicle and that vehicle’s license plate must be included in the sales records.

“From drain sewers to flower urns to copper from power cables, it seems anything metal is up for grabs these days. It’s criminal and it’s affecting not just private businesses, but municipalities struggling financially. Current regulations are too lax considering how pervasive this problem has become,” said Sumter. “The provisions in this bill would help give law enforcement the proper tools to pursue these cases more effectively and discourage these thefts.”