Legislature: Metal Theft Crime Bill Unanimously Passes House


The New Mexico House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation Tuesday establishing the crime of property damage caused by the theft of regulated materials like copper and other metals, and public property such as street signs.  

With bipartisan sponsorship from Rep. Meredith Dixon (D-Albuquerque), Antonio “Moe” Maestas (D-Albuquerque), Rep. Natalie Figueroa (D-Albuquerque) and William “Bill” Rehm (R-Albuquerque), House Bill 144 criminalizes up to a fourth-degree felony the damage to property by theft or attempted theft of regulated materials. This includes aluminum, bronze, copper, brass, steel, and lead materials, as well as utility access covers, water meter covers, guard rails, street signs, traffic signals, and catalytic converters.  

“Metal theft is an ongoing problem plaguing our communities statewide, but the real issue isn’t just the loss of material, it’s the damage caused by the act, which often totals many times the value of the materials taken,” said Rep. Dixon. “In one example, roughly $500 of copper wire was stolen from a Santa Fe church, but the theft caused more than $80,000 in damage when it caused the building’s boiler to crack.”  

“Metal theft is not only a frustrating and expensive problem for property owners, it also costs the government, and ultimately taxpayers, money. The City of Albuquerque experienced $800,000 in damages from metal theft in the past two years alone,” said Rep. Figueroa. “HB 144 will both deter these crimes and help remaining victims receive proper restitution.”  

“In addition to creating costly damage, metal thefts can also pose a public safety hazard when high voltage lines are left exposed or street lights are tampered with,” said Rep. Rehm, a retired police officer. “HB 144 empowers law enforcement to prosecute these criminals for the full extent of the damage caused, and provides adequate compensation for the victims.”  

Members of the public can track legislation on the New Mexico Legislature website, access committee meetings and House floor sessions via the Webcasts tab, or participate by Zoom to provide public comment on committee hearings. During the 2021 Legislative Session, the House of Representatives is focused on passing critical legislation while protecting the health and safety of the public, the staff, and the legislators.