More than 900kg of stolen metal has been seized from a recycler in Cheshire as part of police efforts to tackle the rise in metal theft.
British Transport Police recovered the metal, believed to be from overhead railway lines from a dealer who was said to have done everything possible to determine if the metal was stolen when it was brought to the yard.
The visit was one of several carried out in England, Scotland and Wales last week by the British Transport Police (BTP).
Metal theft has become a recent focus for the government and the scrap industry as railways, churches homes and commercial premises are being increasingly targeted for copper piping, lead flashing and grid covers at the roadside, driven by increasing metal prices and economic hardship.
Government ministers, backed by the BTP and organisations including Network Rail, are looking at proposals to update the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964, to have stricter requirements for ID, as well as banning cash transactions.
However, scrap dealers that MRW spoke to, while wanting to combat the problem, said that a cashless system was impractical and would only force the problem underground.
Jenny Williams, owner of scrap metal merchant Hayward and Cook in Birmingham said: “Half of the guys that turn up at the weighbridge are cash dealers and if they are not going to get cash they probably won’t bother. The guy that doesn’t have a licence is not going to follow the rules anyway, and people will go to him instead. If you can’t enforce the current system, how are you going to enforce licences and a cashless system?”
British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) is working on setting up a trial early next year with its members to introduce stricter requirements for ID.
Ian Hetherington, director general at the BMRA, said that this, along with a single licensing and permit system overseen by the Environment Agency, was a better way to tackle the problem than a cashless system.
“The EA legislation and Scrap Metal Dealers Act is wholly inadequate,” he said. “We want to see a tighentening up of the regulations with a national approach for a system of identification of sellers and a tightening up of enforcement.”