All across Western Washington, metal theft has reached epidemic proportions. Now a number of cities and law enforcement agencies are hoping the passage of new legislation will help prevent it.

Dr. Zan Xu says metal thieves have stolen the copper wiring from the heat pump twice in almost a month at his dental practice in Federal Way.

I feel like I'm just wasting money on a system, said Xu. It just goes no where.

Thieves also hit the HVAC unit at Dickman-Hines Lumber Company. Bruce Hines, owner, said the repairs and added security cost thousands of dollars.

It's a rampant problem, I can tell you that, said Hines.

It cuts across the entire community, said Chris Carrel, communications and grant coordinator for Federal Way.

The Federal Way police department says the city had seven metal thefts from 2009-2010. That number went up to 112 for 2011-2012.

It's increased tremendously in the state. It's increased tremendously in the nation, said Carrel. We think it's critical to act now with comprehensive preventative legislation to stem the tide.

ESHB 1552 would expand criminal penalties for metal theft, create a do not buy database for businesses to use to see if a customer convicted of metal theft related crimes, and establish funding for law enforcement to specifically target metal theft.

The bill is making its way through the Washington state legislature, passing in the House 93 to 4. It is now under consideration in the Senate.

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