New measures came into effect on 1 September banning the use of cash when trading scrap metals
Crime-fighting agencies are heralding the introduction of new legislation aimed at tackling the blight of metal theft and its impact across Scotland.
The construction sector in Scotland is set to welcome changes to legislation – after it was named by authorities as the industry that has suffered the fastest growth in crimes linked to metal theft in the last four-month period.
Authorities including British Transport Police (BTP), Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC), Police Scotland, Scottish Government, and Trading Standards will be involved in enforcing the changes to law, which came into effect on Thursday (1 September), banning the use of cash when buying or selling scrap metals.
Despite a recent reduction in cases, the crime continues to harm Scottish businesses and communities, with 417 metal related crimes reported between April to July 2016 resulting in close to a £600,000 estimated repair cost.
Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson said: “While most scrap dealers are law-abiding businesses, metal theft remains a severe problem in Scotland and so required us to put in place more effective regulation to make it harder for thieves to dispose of stolen metal.
“That is why we legislated through the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015, to tighten up controls on the metal dealer licensing regime.
“The changes now in force will raise standards within the industry – providing greater traceability and increasing penalties for offences, and representing a significant step up in the battle against metal theft.”
Metal theft lead for the SBRC Jim Scott welcomes the changes to law and believes it will drastically improve transparency within the wider scrap metal industry.
He said: “The reality of this criminal activity is that communities are acutely affected – whether through power outages from stolen copper at substations, disruption of rail journeys, or by costly damage to properties with lead stolen from roofing.
“By removing the incentive of cash trading, any scrap metal transactions will be fully traceable and we expect this to deter unscrupulous individuals from carrying out metal theft.
“This will be the culmination of over three years work with various partners including the main utility companies that were the victims of metal theft.
“The SBRC will continue to work with its partners to assist the industry through this substantial change and also to ensure that any dealers that revert to paying cash are identified and dealt with through the proper channels.”
An intensive week of activity is planned following an initial day of action coinciding with the change of law and authorities will then continue with a proactive approach enforcing the new law.
Prior to the change in law, the multi-agency backed Operation Scandium, was carried out to raise awareness of new legislation.
As part of a continuation of Operation Scandium, a year-long Crimestopper’s Scrap the Cash campaign will see over 150 billboard adverts appearing close to scrapyard dealerships in Scotland, together with targeted leaflets and a social media campaign.
Chief superintendent John McBride of British Transport Police said: “Despite a decrease in reported offences, metal theft still incurs a significant cost to the Scottish economy and continues to disrupt and inconvenience our communities.
“By removing cash transactions from the metal industry and having more robust identification processes in place, this new legislation will make it more difficult for those involved in such criminality to dispose of stolen goods.
“By working in partnership with various agencies we will continue to target those involved in metal theft and will also work closely with the Scrap Metal Industry to ensure that any rogue dealers are identified and dealt with under the new legislation.”
Superintendent Gregg Banks of Police Scotland’s Specialist Crime Division, said: “Metal theft has a negative impact on local communities across Scotland. The introduction of new measures will help to tackle issues such as the use of cash to buy or sell scrap metal and the accuracy of sales records.
“These measures will go a long way to support our work with partners and communities to prevent such thefts; to disrupt the market in stolen metal, and reduce the harmful effects on communities and business as a result of metal theft.”
Robert Fell, chief executive, British Metals Recycling Association, said: “As the trade body for many scrap metal yards in Scotland, we welcome the cash ban and the enhanced identification requirements.
“We stand ready to support our colleagues in local authorities, BTP and Police Scotland as they enforce the Act from 1 September onwards. However, we would stress that to be truly effective, on-going enforcement will be crucial and we therefore seek assurance that the Act will continue to be a priority once the initial funding for Operation Scandium ends next year.”