Monday, 21 November 2011

Brassed off!

Not a day goes by now when we don’t hear about the impact of metal thefts in our area. Signaling cable is stolen from railway tracks leading to thousands of train passengers being delayed. Lead is removed from church roofs, allowing rain penetration and causing thousands of pounds of damage. Electric cable is pulled from the ground, putting out street and traffic lights.

The number of cable-theft related crimes has doubled in our area since 2009. Not even our homes or gardens are safe, as constituents report uninvited visitors who will make off with any piece of metal that they can easily remove.

The world prices of metals have risen significantly making scrap a valuable commodity. But the cash that the thieves and vandals are receiving for the stolen materials is minimal compared to the cost of repairing the damage and the loss of production. We all suffer because of the impact on insurance prices.

The vast majority of long-established scrap metal merchants in our area – and we have some of the biggest in the UK – will have nothing to do with this criminality. But there clearly are a number who have absolutely no scruples when it comes to handling stolen property.

I’m backing a campaign to get the government to take urgent action. It’s also supported by the British Transport Police, Neighbourhood Watch and the Association of Chief Police Officers.

The proposals include:
  • Tougher police powers to close rogue traders down.
  • Anyone selling scrap being required to provide proof of identity, recorded at point of sale.
  • Licensing scrap metal dealers, rather than the simple registration scheme which exists now
  • Looking into the possibility and effectiveness of banning cash transactions, especially for large scale/high value scrap metal transactions.

These measures would allow legitimate trade to continue whilst making it harder and more expensive for organised crime and opportunistic thieves to profit from metal theft.