Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Councils call to tackle metal theft

Damage caused to war memorial in Bleakley, Manchester, after two bronze plaques, were stolen
Damage caused to war memorial in Bleakley, Manchester, after two bronze plaques, were stolen

Council leaders have called for greater powers and resources to hold unscrupulous scrap metal dealers to account following a surge in metal thefts across the country.

Thieves who steal copper, lead and bronze from memorials, railway lines and power cables, are being assisted by out of date legislation which hampers regulation of the scrap metal industry, the Local Government Association (LGA) said.

Theft of metal from railway lines, power stations and street furniture is estimated to cost the UK economy £770 million a year and causes chaos on the transport network and to homes and businesses.

In the run up to Remembrance Sunday, thieves have defaced and vandalised memorials by prising from them for metal to sell as scrap.

The majority of metal stolen by thieves for profit will end up being bought by scrap yards without it being traced back to the criminals, the LGA said.

Councillor Mehboob Khan, chairman of the LGA's Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: "Because of the out of date regulation of the scrap metal industry, thieves can make a quick buck from unscrupulous dealers and it is difficult to trace it back to them."

The LGA, which represents more than 350 councils in England and Wales, proposes a ban on cash payments so sellers can be traced.

The proposals also include installation of CCTV with automatic number plate recognition in scrap yards, and the requirement that dealers keep a log of sellers' details. They also want scrap yards to renew their licences every year.

"We have seen the number of metal thefts soar this year. Councils are determined to do something about this but at the moment have very limited power to tackle rogue dealers.

"If we are to clampdown on thieves causing chaos and heartbreak by plundering metal for a quick profit, we need to give councils power to ensure the industry is properly run," Mr Khan added.

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