According to the LGA (Local Government Association) metal thefts have fallen by 30% in the past year, as councils & Police work together to combat unscrupulous thieves. The Latest figures show there were approx. 41,000 reported metal thefts in England and Wales in 2013/14 – down from approx 60,000 in the previous 12 months.
The LGA said the decline in metal thefts – estimated to cost the economy £770 million a year - follows the introduction of the updated Scrap Metal Dealers Act in October 2013. Under this law, every scrap metal dealer, vehicle dismantler & salvage operator has to obtain a licence from their local council in order to trade. In addition, in order to improve traceability of materials, scrap metal dealers are no longer able to use cash to purchase scrap materials/ items, & are required to keep more detailed records.
Local Councils were given the right to refuse or revoke licences, new powers of entry & inspection, and the ability to shut down rogue dealers (although it is not clear to what extent these new powers have been used so far).
According to the latest (December 2014) version of the Environment Agency maintained Public Register, local authorities have issued 7236 licences in England (4663 (64%) of which were mobile collectors), & 493 in Wales (338, 69%, of which were mobile collectors). Even so, it would appear that some local authorities have still not issued any licences. Scotland does not yet have new SMDA legislation, although it is being drafted as part of the Air Weapons...Bill.
Examples of recent action include:
- Milton Keynes Council and Thames Valley Police served the first closure notice at a business under the Scrap Metal Dealers Act in January 2015. The site had been warned to stop buying and selling scrap metal as they had not been granted a licence
- Following a joint-operation by Lichfield District Council and police an unlicensed scrap metal dealer was ordered to pay costs and fines totalling £1,961 after pleading guilty to illegally trading
- In the first prosecution of its kind brought in the London Borough of Haringey, a scrap metal collector was ordered to pay out more than £800 for not keeping a record of his haul
The LGA is urging the Government to continue investing in council and police efforts to co-ordinate enforcement action and gather intelligence to target and disrupt criminal networks and keep up the pressure on metal thieves. This is something strongly supported by MVDA. With 40,000 reported thefts still occurring every year, clearly the ‘job clearly isn’t yet done!’ Sadly, the level of punishment so far handed out falls far short of that required to send out a clear signal to illegal operators.
The latest metal theft crime statistics (November 2014) from the Office of National Statistics can be found here