UK POLICE forces are launching new measures to tackle the growing epidemic of metal theft across the country as Law Enforcement Bodies around the world share initiatives to combat the increase in offences.
Schools, Community buildings, Churches, businesses, railways, power supplies, and even hospitals are amongst those that have all recently been targeted by criminals.
In the UK, Operation Tornado is a national initiative aimed to make it easier to trace sellers of stolen metal and disrupt the activities of those dealers who operate illegal businesses.
Under the scheme, individuals will be required to provide proof of their identity including their current address and a photograph when trying to sell scrap metals to dealers. The dealers will keep copies of all records for up to 12 months and make them available for inspection by police.
The global rise in metal prices has led to an epidemic of opportunist thefts across the world. The theft of metal has been the fastest-growing type of crime in every police force worldwide in recent years, but new powers in the UK will begin to clampdown on the crimewave that has plagued the nation.
The initiative against metal theft crime which was piloted by British Transport Police and several forces across the North of the UK earlier this year was deemed a sucess and is now being deployed in other counties throughout the UK.
Over the past few weeks, local neighbourhood policing teams have visited all scrap metal dealers, telling them about the scheme and encouraging them to sign up.
Letters from the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) about the scheme have also been sent to all scrap metal dealers. Those who do not wish to take part may be subject to increased attention from police and other enforcement agencies..
Inspector Martin Pattenden, the Sussex Police lead for the operation, said:
“Operation Tornado is one of a number of measures currently being explored to restrict the sale and movement of stolen metal. It has been designed not to inhibit those dealers that operate legitimate businesses, but to remove unscrupulous dealers who operate outside the law.
“We are hoping all registered scrap metal dealers will sign up to be involved to help fight the stolen metal trade and make it more difficult for thieves to make money by targeting our communities for metal. Those who do not sign up may now begin to find that they are receiving more attention from law enforcement.”
Ian Hetherington, director general at the British Metals Recycling Association, said:
“Metals theft is a real problem for the metals industry and BMRA continues to advise government on the issue. BMRA and our members are actively supporting Operation Tornado. The measures are sensible and provide the basis for a reform of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act which we all want.
“It’s important to note that many of the problems encountered by legitimate metal recyclers lie with the ineffective enforcement of existing regulations and the proliferation of the illegal, unregulated trade, and not with the majority who operate highly regulated, licensed and permitted sites. We fully support a nationally coordinated approach from the police and the Environment Agency with stronger sentencing and appropriate penalties for those stealing metal and those setting out to dispose of it.”
Metal thieves have caused misery for countless thousands of people across the country and the railway system in particular has experienced significant issues for some time, but throughout 2011 criminals have been diversifying and targeting metal from other areas, including power cables, utilities pipe work, telecommunications cabling, residential properties, businesses and catalytic converters from vehicles. All affected industries are working together to tackle the problem, which is now a significant threat to the UK infrastructure. Whatever the crime, the net result is the same - disruption to everyday life and severe cost to the local and national economy.
In the USA, COLUMBUS, Ga. A new law aimed at cracking down on metal theft in Georgia puts more responsibility on scrap metal recyclers. On Tuesday, legislative representatives at the Columbus Copper Theft Task Force meeting shared changes to the law.
Beginning July 1st scrap metal recycling businesses will have to upload electronically the entire details of a transaction to a statewide database, the Sheriff's Office will issue permits to legitimate businesses and cash payments to metal sellers is no longer permitted there is a three day waiting period for a voucher payment.
Metal theft is becoming greater as the value of lead and copper rises in value. Cases are being reported across the UK, Europe, USA, and the Rest of the World as law enforcement bodies attempt to deal with the problem.
As the UK struggles to contain the spread of metal theft, which is now costing the country approximately £770 million a year, One of the fastest growing crimes in the United States is metal theft. Copper, aluminum, nickel, stainless steel and scrap iron have become the desired target of thieves looking to make a quick buck.
Hornchurch, Essex. The Reverend Barry Hobson vicar of St Andrew’s Church has recruited an organist and eight parishioners to sleep among the pews of his church at night protect it from copper thieves. According to Mr Hobson, thieves have stripped so much metal from the church roof that it will cost tens of thousands to replace.
The coastguard on the South Coast lost communications for 36 hours after a theft earlier this year, meaning volunteers along the Solent had to watch day and night with back-up radios to report distress signals.
British Telecom admitted that emergency services were having to patrol some villages because some local people were unable to dial 999 after cables were taken.
Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Three men steal aluminium from a Port of Baltimore warehouse after having cut a hole in a fence surrounding the lot.
Sarasota County, Florida, USA. To catch suspected thieves of copper and other recyclable metals, detectives with the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office reportedly did some recycling themselves. They repeated a concentrated crackdown on scrap metal thieves, who they say are largely committing crimes to get money for drugs. In Oct 2011, the week-long Operation Meltdown II resulted in 18 arrests on 23 felony and 100 misdemeanor charges and the recovery of 935 pounds of copper stolen off air conditioning units and other equipment.
San Fransisco, California, USA. Troves of bronze plaques and statues, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and the historic bell at St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco was just 2.7 tons of pure copper to the thieves who stole it from the churchyard in Oct 2011.
Hoerdt, France. Dec 2011, France's metal thieves, renowned for targeting motorways and football stadiums and causing mayhem on railways or copper, bronze or brass have turned their attentions to a new prey: cemeteries.
Cape Town, South Africa. Investigations of council members and contractors to the council, while scrutinising the internal processes followed by theCape Town City Council in the sale of its legitimate scrap metal have lead to the arrest of 30 council officials and nine contractors over the last 12 months. This includes two City of Cape Town Water Demand Management Services employees, caught red-handed as they tried to sell 27,5 kg of brass taps – for which they received R962,50 – to a scrapyard.
Newberry Springs, California, USA. Metal thieves targeted two farms in this area - Harter's and a dairy in Helendale - ripping off copper wire from irrigation units and causing a combined $10,000 in damage and loss of property. Harter said the cabling he suspects the thieves made off with will cost him $3 per foot plus labor and the danger of losing some of his crops.
Dulwich Park, South London. Thieves stole a Barbara Hepworth bronze sculpture, "Two Forms (Divided Circle)" approximately 7 feet high. Southwark Council is offering a reward of £1,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the thieves.
Slavkov, Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic. An old 10-tonne railway bridge was dismantled and stolen in broad daylight. The metal bridge, built in 1901 over a river near Slavkov, Karlovy Vary province, was taken away by thieves using a crane and trucks. Pavel Halla, spokesperson for the Czech Railways, said the thieves also stole around 200 metres of railway track.
Horne, Surrey. The thieves took 240 metres from overhead pylons leaving 15 villigers without power for hours.
New theft-detection initiatives being utilised by businesses, schools, churches, and many other worried consumers across the world now include: DNA Grease, DNA Water, Smart Water, Smart Grease, Smart Gel, Smart DNA, NANO Tag,