TIM DREW: Metal theft is still a problem despite decrease

Tim Drew
Tim Drew

Metal theft continues to pose a significant problem in the UK, with an estimated cost to the UK economy of £770million according to the Association of Chief Police Officers.

In addition, significant personal, societal and environmental costs are incurred, as in cases involving damage to a church roof, power outages or rail passengers and train operating companies faced with costly delays after cable has been stolen from the railway.

16,155 metal theft offences were recorded by the police in the year ending March 2016, a decrease of over a third (38 per cent) compared with the same forces for the previous year.

Over the same period, infrastructure-related metal theft offences, including those which have a direct impact on the functioning or structure of buildings or services, decreased by 36 per cent while non-infrastructure-related metal theft decreased by 40 per cent. There were three metal theft offences per 10,000 people in England and Wales in the past year. While this is good news and indicates that the Scrap Metal Dealers Act, which came into effect in October 2013, has helped to drive down crime, the problem has certainly not been eliminated and may increase with the recent rise in the price of metals.

The Government has accordingly responded to a request from the British Metal Recycling Association (BMRA) to review existing legislation. It launched a consultation in December 2016, which will close at the end of this month.

The Government has indicated that it will engage with representatives of the scrap metal and metals recycling industry, the energy and rail networks, the Church of England and other religious bodies and Historic England, as well as representatives from traveller organisations, local authorities and the police. Items under discussion will include risk management measures, such as the use of forensic technology.

• The Central Ward Neighbourhood Panel will meet on Thursday (January 26) at the Ardington Hotel, Steyne Gardens, at 6.30pm.

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