Metal theft is becoming an epidemic, and urgent action is needed from the Home Office to put a stop to these sickening and dangerous attacks - Yvette Cooper

Yvette CooperYvette Cooper MP, Labour's Shadow Home Secretary is calling on the Home Office to take urgent action to tackle metal theft as figures show that the North East remains a hot-spot for the crime.

Figures from the British Transport Police show that the North Eastern region, which includes the North East and Yorkshire, had 1087 reported cases of metal theft on the railways in 2010, higher than anywhere else in the country.

Thieves have targeted the copper cables on rail lines such as the Tyne and Wear Metro and the East Coast Mainline, causing widespread disruption for passengers. 

Labour is proposing new measures to strengthen police powers, license scrap dealers and to look at banning cash transactions within the scrap metal trade.

Yvette Cooper MP said:

"Metal theft is becoming an epidemic, and urgent action is needed from the Home Office to put a stop to these sickening and dangerous attacks. The Government should back the police in their fight against metal theft by pledging to change the law to make it easier to stop this organised crime.

"The vandalising and theft of war memorials is shocking and disgraceful, undermining the respect that all our communities want to show to fallen heroes.

In addition households face repeated power cuts, commuters face increasing delays, churches and public buildings are being damaged, all as a result of escalating metal theft. The theft of electric wires is even putting lives at risk. In my own constituency the theft of copper wires to a house ended up also triggering a gas leak, and ultimately an explosion which devastated six houses. It’s a miracle nobody was killed.

"This out of touch Government needs to get a grip and crack down on this crime. It is still too easy to trade stolen metal. We need a much tougher licensing regime for scrap metal dealers, including requiring people selling to metal dealers to prove their identity, and stronger powers for the police to investigate. We need to support legitimate trade but make it easier to stop organised crime.

“When cases are becoming this serious, the Home Office shouldn't turn a blind eye or just leave it to the police. We need action and we need it now.”
 
Ends

Notes
 
1. Labour Party Proposals:
 
· Licensing scrap metal dealers, rather than current registration with Local Authority.
· Look into possibility and impact of banning cash transactions within the trade.
· Strengthen police powers to close rogue traders down.
· Anyone selling scrap to provide verifiable proof of identity, recorded at point of sale.
 
2. Current situation
 
Records Required to be Kept
 
Every scrap metal dealer must keep, at each place occupied by him as a scrap metal store, a book detailing all scrap metal received at that place and all scrap metal either processed at or dispatched from that place. Two books may be kept where the metal processed and or dispatched from a place is not received at that place.
· The details to be kept for scrap metal received are:
· The description and weight of the metal;
· The date and time of receipt of the metal;
· If the metal is received from another person the name and address of that person;
· The price of the metal if it has been ascertained at the time the entry is made in the book;
· If no price has been ascertained, the estimated value of the scrap metal;
· The registration mark of any mechanically propelled vehicle used to deliver the scrap metal.
· The details to be kept scrap metal processed or dispatched are:
· The description and weight of the metal;
· The date of processing or dispatch, and in the case of processing, the process applied;
· Where scrap metal is dispatched for sale or exchange, the name and address of the person to whom it is sold or with whom it is exchanged and the consideration for which it is sold or exchanged;
· Where scrap metal is despatched or processed other than for sale or exchange, its estimated value before being dispatched or exchanged.
 
3. British Transport Police briefing and stats below:
 
SUMMARY
 
During 2008 live cable offences on BTP jurisdiction rose by approximately four per cent and non-live by approximately 30 per cent (year on year), however, towards the end of the year there was a reduction in the frequency of offences as the metal prices began to fall.
 
2010 saw a significant rise in the number of incidents recorded by BTP, culminating in a new record being set in April when just under 300 incidents were reported.
 
From 1 April 2010 to 31 March 2011 there was a 70.2% increase in theft of cable.  Cable theft is undoubtedly the number one crime issue for the railways, accounting for 39.7% of all railway property theft.  There were 2,712 cable thefts in 2010/11 compared to 1,593 in 2009/10. 
 
In the five months between April and August 2011 compared with the same period in 2010, live cable theft is down 1.1% to 611 offences, non-live cable theft is up 3.5% to 741, meaning total cable theft is up 1.3% to 1,352.
 
CABLE THEFT
 
History
 
Cable theft is a major problem for the rail industry, as for many other industries.  During the past five years BTP has seen a sharp rise in the number of cable theft offences committed with Deputy Chief Constable Paul Crowther describing the thefts as one of the force’s biggest challenges after terrorism.
 
With the soaring price of copper on world markets, theft of cable emerged as a serious problem for the rail industry, as it did for telecommunications providers and other utilities, in 2006.
 
Cable theft describes a range of activity from the “cottage industry end of the spectrum, in which small amounts of cable are stolen, to serious organised crime. 
 
Patterns of crime seem to be consistent over a range of industries with the north east of England a particular hot spot area.  Thefts can have a serious impact on track maintenance, infrastructure projects, as well as the smooth running of the network. 
 
As well as thefts from depots, criminals risk their lives to steal lineside cable causing considerable disruption to services.
 
Signals default to red if interfered with, but the theft of other metal components and vehicles and other material obstructing tracks do cause potential safety hazards.
 
Copper prices
 
Towards the end of 2008 the price of refined copper on world markets began to fall – to a low of $3,000/tonne in December 2008 – rising month by month throughout 2009.
 
2010 was a year of sharp rises and small dips. April/May saw a high of just below $8,000/tonne, prices then fell during the summer, but rose again to an unprecedented high in December of more than $9,400 per tonne.  During the first five months of 2011 prices have fluctuated reaching a peak of $10,148 or £6,343 in February. Copper prices are expected to rise in the medium term.
 
Small rewards
 
Despite these record prices, cable thieves make little money, in relative terms, for the copper they steal.  Certainly they do not receive anything close to the true value from selling copper to scrap yards.
 
Costs and impact
 
There is a human, as well as an economic impact.  Whole communities have lost power or communications, people miss appointments, interviews, flights, churches and householders have had to replace roofs, councils replace manhole covers and even plaques have been taken from a cemetery
 
The direct cost of metal theft to the British economy is at least £260m a year, but there are also many indirect costs that are difficult to determine (Deloitte report 2011)
 
Network Rail has lost around £43m over three years (to mid-2011)
 
Millions of passengers have been affected and delays total more than 16,000 hours over the past three years
 
10 people have been killed in metal theft incidents in the last year
 
Crime figures
 
During 2008 live cable offences on BTP jurisdiction rose by approximately four per cent and non-live by approximately 30 per cent (year on year), however, towards the end of the year there was a reduction in the frequency of offences as the metal prices began to fall.
 
2010 saw a significant rise in the number of incidents recorded by BTP, culminating in a new record being set in April when just under 300 incidents were reported.
 
From 1 April 2010 to 31 March 2011 there was a 70.2% increase in theft of cable.  Cable theft is undoubtedly the number one crime issue for the railways, accounting for 39.7% of all railway property theft.  There were 2,712 cable thefts in 2010/11 compared to 1,593 in 2009/10. 
 
In the five months between April and August 2011 compared with the same period in 2010, live cable theft is down 1.1% to 611 offences, non-live cable theft is up 3.5% to 741, meaning total cable theft is up 1.3% to 1,352.
 
Summary of cable theft-related figures – including attempt theft and malicious damage.
 
2006Area Crimes
Scotland 3
North Eastern 194
North Western 136
Wales and Western 104
London North 45
London Underground 16
London South 124
Total 622
 
2007Area Crimes
Scotland 48
North Eastern 849
North Western 241
Wales and Western 338
London North 168
London Underground 30
London South 235
Total 1909
 
2008Area Crimes
Scotland 82
North Eastern 1027
North Western 214
Wales and Western 455
London North 306
London Underground 50
London South 287
Total 2421
 
2009Area Crimes
Scotland 61
North Eastern 593
North Western 207
Wales and Western 369
London North 249
London Underground 56
London South 144
Total 1679
 
 
2010Area Crimes
Scotland 160
North Eastern 1087
North Western 264
Wales and Western 549
London North 292
London Underground 108
London South 305
Total 2765