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Act is helping to turn the tide in war against scrap metal thieves

Monday 27th April, 2015

Laws that apply when you scrap a car in Nottingham, Derbyshire, and Leicestershire in line with the rest of the UK.


The new laws mean that...

All site-based and mobile scrap metal dealers, including motor salvage operators, must have a council-issued licence – either a site licence and/or a collector's licence for each council area in which collections are made.

New identity requirements oblige all scrap metal dealers and collectors, including motor salvage operators, to verify the identity of anyone selling scrap metal to them and provide a current address.

The ban on scrap metal cash transactions, introduced in 2012, is extended to cover itinerant collectors and motor salvage operators.

In Notts, some local authorities, including Newark and Sherwood District Council, have been visiting scrap metal dealers to check on compliance.

Nottingham Community Protection has been getting the message across via Operation Cleansweep – a series of roadside spot-checks aimed at snaring and deterring metal thieves.

During a recent check at Dunkirk, Nottingham, a total of 32 vehicles were stopped. Seventeen inspections showed up problems that will require further inquiries.

Of the 17, five involve alleged scrap-related irregularities – causing investigations into four possible waste or scrap metal offences and one possible theft of lead and other scrap metal items.

However there was business for other agencies involved in the operation: Notts Police, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

Justifying the name Cleansweep, inspections yielded suspected offences including benefit and identity fraud, an overloaded vehicle, driving without insurance and a bald tyre.

However scrap metal offences remain the focus of the campaign and 118 vehicles have been stopped in Nottingham since the change in legislation.

They have resulted in nine investigations into the illegal collection of scrap, one of which has led to conviction and a fine of £3,666.

The continuing purge, says city councillor Rosemary Healy, executive assistant for community safety, sends "a strong message that we will not tolerate cars that are unroadworthy, nor will we accept illegal waste and scrap metal operations in our city.

"We will come down heavily on those that do not comply with the legal obligations of owning a vehicle, or unlicensed businesses, to keep our citizens safe and our city clean."

There is a degree of national supervision to the fight against metal crime. Because of the high volume of thefts on railway property, overall responsibility was handed by the Home Office to British Transport Police, the England's only uniformed national police force.

Based in the Newark area, Temporary Sergeant Matt Ward is not only the Notts officer on the case but also the regional co-ordinator for the East Midlands.

"Since the Act the amount of metal theft reported by East Midlands firms has continued to reduce," he said. "You get the occasional blip, but you do with anything.

"We have involved several agencies in our checks. Revenue & Customs, for instance, look for red diesel [untaxed home heating fuel, dyed red for identification] and the Vehicle Standards Agency will look for thinks like vehicle safety.

"We target obvious scrap vehicles, but also work vans because people have been moving away from open vehicles to closed ones."

Just in case potential offenders are tempted to think that law enforcers will soon get bored with the 2013 Act, Sgt Ward is promising more spot checks soon. You'll know when you have been flagged down.


SO why the change in the law and the ongoing crackdown on rogue scrap metal dealers?According to the Home Office, the recent growth in metal thefts highlighted the ineffectiveness of the old registration system created in the 1960s.The scrap industry had long been the principal market for stolen metal, but the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964 failed to change that.So determined were some thieves that they were risking their safety by stripping lead from the roofs of churches and public buildings – and putting other lives at risk by stealing such items as railway signal cabling.In 2010, a signal failure on the Nottingham-Lincoln line led to the discovery that 25 metres of trackside cable had been stolen. Two Newark men were arrested and y admitted theft. They were jailed for three years.In the spring of 2011 there were 133 reported thefts of lead in Nottingham in just 40 days. The most high-profile theft was from the roof of St Mary’s Church in the Lace Market. In 2010-11, says the Home Office, between 80,000 and 100,000 metal thefts were reported. The cost to the economy varied depended on your source – £220-£260m said corporate finance specialists Deloitte; up to £777m per year said the Association of Chief Police Officers.As thieves sought to cash in, the impact was felt in national transport infrastructure; electricity and telecommunication links; street furniture; heritage buildings; memorials and commercial and residential buildings.The fightback began 18 months ago with a ban on cash payments for scrap metal and the introduction of bigger fines for offences under the 1964 Act.These were brought into force in December 2012 and the licensing requirement was introduced with the 2013 Act.

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