You can not have failed to read in the papers or seen reports on the television that there has been a staggering increase in the number of metal thefts in the last year.
These heartless crimes have involved plaques from war memorials and gravestones and the roofs from churches, as well as crimes which have a huge impact on our everyday life, ranging from theft of Network Rail cables, which cause massive disruption to the travelling public to BT cables which have caused the loss of emergency care lines to sheltered housing schemes and the interruption of communications systems to the fire, police and ambulance services as well as the coastguards and RNLI.
Community members have a very important role to play in tackling this abhorrent crime, by being alert to every suspicious incident in their street and reporting these incidents to the police. Those members who live in the vicinity of Scrap Metal Dealers yards should be extra vigilant and report all suspicious movements.
Many of these crimes would stop overnight if there was no ready market for their ill-gotten gains. 90% of transactions in scrap metal yards is by cash. Record keeping is non-existant and no questions are asked. Existing legislation is very weak and goes back to the Scrap Metal Dealers Act of 1964. Maximum fines are very low.
We are urging the government to move towards a cashless business model for scrap metal dealers. There will be exceptions to every model, but legislation which gives robust powers to police and local authorities, accompanied by powers of temporary closure given to Police Superintendents and powers of closure and confication of assets given to magistrates, will give legitimacy to genuine businesses and put the cowboys out of business.
We would like to encourage both Neighbourhood Watch members and others from our community to sign an online e-petition, which would cause a parliamentary debate on the subject, and we can take another step on the route to legislation which will be effective.