LITTLE ROCK — Attorney General Leslie Rutledge on Thursday announced a new program to combat the problem of metal theft.

LITTLE ROCK — Attorney General Leslie Rutledge on Thursday announced a new program to combat the problem of metal theft.


"As attorney general, I am launching a coordinated statewide effort to train local law enforcement to target metal theft, and instructing agents of the Special Investigations Division at the attorney general’s office to begin controlled sales and inspections of scrapyards to ensure non-precious metal is properly registered," Rutledge said in a news release.


Farmers are one of the largest groups targeted by metal thieves, according to Rutledge’s office, which said in the release that thieves who steal metal from, for example, an agricultural pivot irrigation system may be able to sell it illegally for a few hundred dollars, but the farmer who owns the system will have to spend $10,000 or more on repairs, in addition to dealing with crop schedule delays.


"These crimes have gone on far too long and are harming Arkansas businesses, farms, schools, homes and churches. Enough is enough, and today, we begin a process of bringing an end to these crimes," Rutledge said.


Rutledge said sworn officers from her office will train local law enforcement to use an online service, LeadsOnline, to target metal theft. Week-long training sessions are planned in late July in Jonesboro, Fort Smith, Texarkana, Mountain Home, El Dorado, Monticello, Fayetteville, West Memphis and Little Rock.


In August, the agents will begin controlled sales and inspections of scrapyards to ensure that non-precious metal is properly registered and scrapyards are in compliance with the law. If a scrapyard is not following the law, the agents have the authority to issue warnings or citations. Offenders can be fined up to $1,000 for each offense.


In 2009, Arkansas became the second state in the country to pass a law requiring all scrap metal recyclers to report transactions electronically.


Act 1354 of 2013 requires scrap metal recyclers to receive a license issued by the local sheriff and creates a compliance report that allows law enforcement to check to see if scrap metal recyclers are reporting all information required by state law.


Rutledge said the laws have not been consistently enforced because of limited resources, however.


Arkansas was fifth in the nation in insurance claims for metal theft in 2010-12, with more than 600 claims, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.


Data submitted to the National Incident Based Reporting System shows that in 2014, 602 incidents of metal theft were reported in Arkansas.