SACRAMENTO — Ending two years of debate, the Legislature on Thursday gave final approval to a bill aimed at stopping metal theft, a growing problem in the valley and elsewhere.

Metal theft is an especially troublesome crime in rural areas. Thieves cannibalize farm equipment and sell the scrap metal for quick cash, often to fuel drug habits, authorities say.

Assembly Bill 844 was introduced by Assemblyman Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto. It requires junk dealers and recyclers to collect more information from customers that could help with investigations, including thumbprints and photos of the metals being recycled. Also, customers would not receive cash payments until three days after they sell the metals. Irregular customers could be paid by check only.

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