Iron and Stealing: National Drop in Scrap Metal Thefts

Iron and Stealing: National Drop in Scrap Metal Thefts

23rd Dec, 2016

Scrap metal theft (also known as ‘criminal recycling’) is a big business, and a plague on the legitimate scrap car industry. It’s one of the fastest growing crimes globally, and often has immediate consequences. Thankfully, the British government and the scrap metal industry are making a concerted effort – helped by new legislation – that’s helping to win the fight against scrap metal thieves.

Why Steal Scrap Metal?

scrap metal

“Why bother?” you may be thinking. Surely it’s more lucrative to raid a till, or rob a bank. Well, that may be so (we still don’t advise it by the way), but it’s also far more risky. One of the reasons that scrap metal theft is so common is because it’s relatively easy, and many of the thieves are opportunists. Railway lines, construction sites and churches are all common targets, mostly because they’re rarely – if at all – guarded. You may have heard of lead being taken from church roofs; if thieves know what they’re looking for, they can sometimes make a tidy profit. This leads us right on to another reason why theft is so widespread, which is the abundance of such materials. Metals can be harvested from items that use them as components, or simply stolen directly (such as from metal railings). The metals are then sold onto metal recycling centres.

The value of these metals is highly dependent on market prices, and the sharp increase in demand (and therefore value) of many of them is credited as a motivating factor in many thefts. The inherent lack of oversight in the scrap car industry is another major factor; most recycling centres buy and process scrap metal in bulk, making it harder to track stolen materials. Also, there are a lot of dodgy scrap car breakers who will knowingly act as fences for thieves, as long as it turns them a profit too.

Turning The Tide Against Thieves

Iron and Stealing: National Drop in Scrap Metal Thefts

However, we at Scrap Car Network are pleased to be able to tell you that the government and scrap metal industry are together fighting back, making theft harder by making everyone more accountable.

The Scrap Metal Dealers Act of 2013 was a huge step in this campaign. Among the changes introduced by the Act were:

  • Requiring all businesses and individuals to complete a more detailed application to obtain a scrap metal dealer licence and become an Authorised Treatment Facility
  • Giving local authorities and councils the power to not only reject these applications, but also revoke existing licences
  • New powers for police and authorities to enter and inspect sites
  • Requiring all sellers (that includes you) to provide personal identification during the sale, which is then recorded by the dealer – these are kept on file for three years
  • Banning the use of cash when buying or selling scrap metal – all transactions must be paid by bank transfer or cheque
  • Creating a public register of all licensed scrap metal dealers, hosted by the Environment Agency.

We’ve already talked about the importance of knowing the law in our previous blog post, and the fight against black market scrap metal dealing is a pivotal reason for this new scrutiny on both buyers and sellers.

And it’s working! The Office of National Statistics reported a 38% drop in scrap metal theft in the last year alone, while regional stats are seeing an even more concentrated drop. Manchester has seen an almost 80% drop in the space of about three years, while cities like Leicester and Kent are seeing similarly huge success.

Great News For All Of Us

“But I only want to scrap my car.” You may be thinking. “Why does this affect me?” Well, scrap metal theft often has immediate and damaging consequences. Theft from railway lines can cause delays – or at worst, derailments – for trains, while copper theft from telecoms can mean disconnected calls and more delays while they’re repaired and their components replaced.

The damage can be economic too – to use railways as an example again, replacing components, repairing systems and reimbursing customers all results in significant costs for the network, which can ultimately mean higher prices for you, the customer. The Scrap Metal Dealers Act is so far effectively combating these thefts, and the British Metal Recycling Association have been successful in their request for a review of an early review of the legislation, so that its effectiveness can be further enhanced if necessary.

The black market is a major concern for us here at Scrap Car Network, and we do our bit in the fight against it by only partnering with traders that are Authorised Treatment Facilities. You can read more about why you should only choose ATFs, or get started on scrapping your car right away by entering your details on our website for an instant quote!