The Canadian Electricity Association is urging the federal government to establish tighter regulations surrounding metal transactions as the theft of copper continues.

The price of copper has increased by about 200 per cent over the past decade, tempting thieves to steal it from existing electrical systems despite the danger, said Geoff Smith, the organization's director of government relations. 

In the past six years, eight people have died in relation to copper theft, Smith said.

"Seven were the perpetrators who were killed in the process of removing copper and one was a security guard who encountered an incident in progress at a mine in Quebec and was killed by the thieves — murdered," he said. 

Gatineau Police created a special unit focused on copper theft to curb the ongoing problem, said Sgt. Jean-Paul Lemay.

"We've had regular arrests but the thefts keep going on," Lemay said.

Smith said it's time to regulate the cash-for-metal business by limiting transactions and requiring a proof of identity from the seller to create a clear record for police who investigate stolen property. 

It's currently a matter of provincial jurisdiction but Smith said that's not effective. B.C., Alberta and Nova Scotia are the only provinces with regulations in place. 

"It really is only as effective as it is in the province next door. For example, if in Nova Scotia there is a tightening of that transaction, New Brunswick may see an uptick in incidents there."

For the most part, those caught stealing copper are charged with theft under $5,000.

"Maybe it's time to update the Criminal Code for an offence that could be used in this case, that would be more proportional to the impact of these crimes," Smith said.