British Transport Police (BTP) is calling for new measures to tackle the increasing problem of metal theft.
Deputy Chief Constable Paul Crowther, who also leads the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Conductive Metal Theft Working Group, has called for measures which would allow senior police officers to close down scrap metal dealers who fail to abide by industry standard working practices.
DCC Crowther said: “We need the powers to tackle the heart of this problem effectively, allowing us to shut down scrap metal dealers who continue to flout the law and provide a market for thieves through buying and selling stolen metal.
“With the high price of metal on world markets at the moment, thieves who sell to willing or unwitting dealers are getting good returns for their criminal activity.
“This is a crime which really impacts on people’s everyday lives. Take, for example, the small business left struggling because their broadband cable has been ripped out by thieves simply looking to make a quick buck.
“Metal theft is far from a victimless crime and can cause enormous problems for local communities and industry.”
To date, in 2010, there has been a significant rise in the number of incidents recorded by BTP, culminating in a new record being set in April when just less than 300 incidents were reported during the month.
This year to date BTP has recorded 1,855 cable-related offences and has made almost 500 arrests.
DCC Crowther added: “In recent months we have seen significant problems caused to both the East and West Coast Mainline due to cable theft with both routes suffering extensive delays and cancellations.
“Away from the railways, the actions of metal thieves have left entire communities, including hospitals and other vital services, without power. They have caused widespread broadband failures, and have even stripped some towns of their war memorials.”
BTP and local police forces have been working hard to tackle those involved in the thefts, but senior officers now feel the time has come to address the methods used by thieves to sell the stolen metal.
The ACPO group, which includes representatives from the British Metal Recycling Association (BMRA), has helped to draft a code of conduct for scrap metal dealers – setting out a number of conditions all dealers should adhere to, including:
- All reasonable steps should be taken to ensure stolen metals are not bought
- Metals should only be accepted from those who present sufficient proof of identity and ownership (paper trails make it far easier for authorities to trace those who bring in stolen metals)
- All staff should be trained in administrative processes and all paperwork should be relevant and kept up-to-date
- Suspicious people and transactions should be reported to the police
- Dealers should co-operate withpolice and local authorities by allowing access and inspection when requested
In addition, ACPO would like to see an end to cash transactions at scrap dealers. This would stop thieves being able to make a ‘quick buck’ and would introduce a secondary level of identification as all payments would have to be made to a named account.
The code of conduct is close to being ratified by the industry and could hold the key to further success in tackling metal theft.
DCC Crowther continued: “The BMRA has been has acted responsibly in looking to bring in the voluntary code of conduct and I would like to thank them for this approach.
“But this would only cover their members and could disadvantage them, as non-members could flout the code and potentially earn more business as a result.
“We would, therefore, like to see the practices of the code made enforceable across the industry – setting clear guidelines for all scrap metal dealers.
“Police forces have seen success with licensing laws, which govern bars, pubs and clubs and allow officers to close them down if the terms of their license are breached. We want see if similar legislation could help us tackle this form of criminality.”
Dyan Crowther, director of operational services, Network Rail, said: “Metal thieves targeting the railway are causing misery to thousands of passengers, with many people missing business appointments or having disruption to holidays and days out through the selfish and dangerous actions of a few.
“We are doing everything we can to deter such thefts and protect our vital railway. Working in partnership with the police, more and more culprits and scrap metal dealers are being caught. We support any move that gives police the ability to close down dealers who are acting illegally in order to remove the market for stolen metal.”
Acknowledgement: Rochdale News, 25th October 2010