California law enforcement will receive access to an online database for fighting metal theft thanks to a bill signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown on Aug. 17. The online database will replace traditional pen-and-paper logs maintained by pawn shop owners and metal recyclers as a means to track metal sales and metal theft, such as the theft of copper wire from construction sites or vacant buildings.

"Criminals and victims should know that the time for turning property crimes into easy profits is coming to an end," said Assemblyman Richard Pan, who wrote Assembly Bill 391.

The database will be implemented by the California Department of Justice, but it's not clear when, Pan said. The idea began 12 years ago, but only now received funding, he said.

Pawn shop owners and recycled metal dealers will pay a yearly fee of $300 as part of licensing certification. The program will benefit those people, Pan said, because they will save money by not maintaining and storing paper logs. The California Pawnbrokers Association, representing more than 850 dealers, said it supports the fee structure.

The online database will also save police the time and trouble of searching through paper records. "Now, instead of filling out a form that sits in a box in a storage room, it is now an automated system that is searchable by any law enforcement agency in California," Sacramento City Police Chief Rick Braziel said.

A similar online database is being deployed in Texas and a few other states.

Video: California Assemblyman Richard Pan discusses a new online database that will monitor transactions at pawn shops and metal recycling centers. Visit Pan's website for more information.