These days copper is worth a pretty penny. A pound of it is priced at about $3 and in the last three years the price has nearly tripled. If you get a whole pile of scrap metal you could make good money.
"If you're doing a remodel on your kitchen you may bring me one of these," John Sacco from Sierra Recycling said as he holds a metal pipe. "But if you bring me a pile of this I have a problem with you."
Sacco, who combats metal theft on a daily basis, said metal theft is rampant in Kern County. It hurts farmers, who need the materials to water their crops.
"Farmers are our friends, we do business with them, and when they get hurt it hurts me," Sacco said.
A million dollars worth of metal has been stolen so far this year, according to the Sheriff's Department. But Kern County leads the nation in catching metal thieves. Recycling centers nationwide now post "stolen property alerts," an idea that started locally.
State legislation passed in 2009 requires recyclers to screen anyone selling scrap metals. Each person who comes to recycle must give their finger print, identification and have his or her photo taken."
But not all recyclers operate with security like Sierra. And a new trend - thieves are going South to sell stolen metal to those who will turn a blind eye.
"We've been working with law enforcement in Los Angeles and they've been extremely cooperative in helping us solve some of our thefts," rural crimes unit Sgt. Robert Winn said.
"There is a possibility for prison and other enhancements," Richard Harrold, Deputy District Attorney, said. "However with realignment it's pretty much local time with up to three years if it's a first offense felony for a grand theft charge."
But Sacco wants to see harsher punishments for scrap metal thieves and recycling centers who don't follow the laws.