No cash for scrap - new powers to tackle metal theft
3 December 2012
METAL THIEVES can no longer make a quick quid by cashing in their scrap, thanks to a change in the law.
From today, 3 December, new legislation bans scrap dealers from offering cash payment to sellers of metal at their yards.
The change in the law means anyone trying to sell their wares will either be paid via a pre-arranged bank transfer or on a credit card – rendering the whole transaction transparent and traceable.
The law should see a dramatic decline in metal theft, according the lead of the Midlands Regional Metal Theft Taskforce, Detective Inspector Gordon Roberts.
“For too long thieves have been able to steal what they like and sell it on for, sometimes, large amounts of cash,” he said.
“As a force we have joined colleagues from industry, the former Police Authority, and other local authorities to campaign for a change in the law to make this process illegal and thankfully we today are seeing it become a reality.”
The Association of Chief Police Officers has estimated that metal theft costs the UK economy approximately £770 million per year, however the West Midlands region has seen massive reductions in the number of crimes being committed this year – with offences having halved.
Since last year the force has seen a reduction of over 60 per cent for crimes involving metal theft, which means that there are almost 2,500 fewer victims of this type of offence.
For five years West Midlands Police has been running Operation Steel to specifically tackle metal related crime and earlier this year the Midlands region came together to join the national response – Operation Tornado.
The scheme requires anyone selling scrap metal to participating dealers to provide photographic proof of identity.
Today’s change in legislation goes a step further, making it illegal for scrap dealers to offer cash payments to any sellers, or to accept goods from anyone without ID.
The bill replaces the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964, offering greater powers to police and local authorities to tackle rogue traders.
DI Roberts added: “We know, from our enquiries under Operation Tornado, that there are a good many dealers out there who are operating legally and properly.
“We grade all yards with a red, amber or green status depending on how they work under the Tornado guidelines.
“That information will now help us as we enforce the new laws across the Midlands to further reduce the number of victims of metal theft in the region.”
The launch of the new legislation marks the end of years of campaigning by local authorities and political figures. Police and Crime Commissioner for the West Midlands, Bob Jones today welcomed the news. “I want to pay tribute to all of the councils, voluntary organisations and MPs in the area who have campaigned for this political change,” he said.
“If this legislation has the same impact that it had when introduced in France and The Netherlands then we should see a thousands fewer victims of crime and a considerable amount of police time saved,” he said.
“That would free up time for police to fully concentrate on the few who are operating illegally.”
The law change has been tentatively welcomed by legal operators, who are happy to see tighter rules, despite the legislation creating them something of a logistical headache.
Joe Smith, owner of Wolverhampton-based scrap metal yard, J Smith Metals, said: “The change in legislation will take some getting used to but it is a change for the good of the industry.
“From today we can be confident in knowing that pretty much all of the people who come into our yard are law abiding citizens who are disposing of metal properly.
“It has cost us to set up the cashless system to conform with the Act but it will be good for us in the end.”