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Metal theft reduction suggests enforcement is working

Efforts to reduce metal theft are showing early signs of success, according to figures released by the Home Office.

There was a steady decline in metal theft across England and Wales in each quarter of 2012/13 (see graph above) with a 40% fall during the financial year ending March 2013, according to the statistics.

There were over 61,000 metal theft offences recorded by police. Around half of these (47%) were related to disruptive metal thefts from infrastructure where lead roofs, electricity pipes and manhole covers were stolen (see chart below).

Metal thefts corresponded to 2% of all police recorded crime in England and Wales for this period.

Over this period the Government introduced three initiatives to curb metal crime, including:

  • boosting enforcement activity by funding the National Metal Theft Taskforce
  • banning the industry from trading in cash from in December 2012 through the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act
  • Drafting the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 to give greater powers to police and local authorities to clampdown on metal crime.
Police force areas with highest metal thefts 2012/13: 
West Yorkshire3,862
South Yorkshire3,845
Metropolitan Police3,523
West Midlands3,427
Greater Manchester3,326


Crime prevention minister Norman Baker said: “Metal theft has a huge impact on communities and I’m encouraged to see an early reduction in this crime.

“The early signs are that our changes, including increasing financial penalties, banning cash payments and improving enforcement through the National Metal Theft Taskforce are starting to take hold.

“This crime affects everyone — from the stealing of cables that delay your rail journey home to the shocking theft of war memorials which costs hours of police time.”

Ian Hetherington, director general of the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA), said: “The Home Office figures demonstrate that co-ordinated and effective enforcement through initiatives such as the National Metal Theft Taskforce can be effective at reducing metal related crime. Sadly from March next year funding for the Taskforce will be withdrawn and it will be disbanded.”

He added: “Without effective enforcement metal theft will increase and police forces will be unable to cope.”

types of metal theft offence

Readers' comments (2)

  • Can you tell me what the difference is between the Smoking ban,which affectively ended the Financial viability of the small Pubs,and the cash ban,which will kill the honest small Scrap Merchant who have been on the go for generations..Just like the only Pubs surviving are the large Conglomerates,the only Scrap Merchants surviving are the E.M.R."s of this world.This situation has been brought about by MP"s and "Do Gooders",with no practical experience of the Scrap Industry.Lack of enforcement was the trouble before and in a couple of years time,after the Scrap Industry is dead,lack of enforcement will still be the problem.

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  • The really funny thing is a graph ( lifted from the police satistics) that shows metal theft declining during the whole of 2012 prior to any new regulations. At the side of the graph is link to Richard Ottoway and Mehboob Khan in JULY 2012 claiming that metal theft is spiralling out of control - this is the same period that the the graph showing falling metal theft figures. There was never a need for more legislation and record keeping. There was no enforcement of the old SMDA - try reading it there was scope to control the trade BUT someone had to get off their backside and enforce it. Anyone who believes that more legislation and Bureaucracy will stop criminality is deluded. Great Britain would be crime free zone if that were the case. Proving the point of sale of metal is irrelevant without ( and usually with) proof of theft and as - we all have experience of - there won't be a prosecution with proof of theft - not from a scrapyard anyway! We can all provide proof of sale but the police can't provide proof of theft, they have temporarily diverted resources to metal theft - which accounts for only 2% of reported crime - it can't last. They are trying to makes us do the job that they are paid (by us ) to do. The front page of The Times reported, yesterday, that all other crimes as risen - something I predicted. A lot of petty theft - which most metal theft is - is to fund addiction, so long as the addicts remain addicted, then the problem of theft will persist.

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