The Government said that legislation banning cash payments for scrap metal is “proving to be effective” after figures revealed a drop by more than a third in metal theft offences recorded by the police.
Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show there were 16,155 metal theft offences recorded by 42 police forces in the year ending March 2016, 38% fewer than in the previous year.
During the same period, infrastructure-related metal theft offences, which includes theft of live services such as railway cabling, decreased by 36% while non-infrastructure-related metal theft, such as abandoned vehicles, decreased by 40%.
Rates of metal theft offences have remained highest in the northern regions, but all regions have shown similar patterns of year-on-year decreases.
Most metal theft offences recorded by the police, 56%, were classified as ’all other theft offences’, which is largely made up of thefts of unattended items.
Other common categories include burglary and vehicle offences, which accounted for 23% and 19% of all metal theft offences, respectively.
Of all burglary offences involving metal theft, 72% were recorded as non-domestic burglary, with the remainder recorded as domestic burglary.
The ONS statistics bulletin, published last week, says the overall decline has coincided with Government initiatives to tackle metal theft.
These include the Scrap Metal Dealers Act, implemented in 2013, which included the banning of cash payments for scrap metal and for all metal sellers to provide proof of identity at the point of sale.
The Act required all individuals and businesses to obtain a scrap metal dealer’s licence and for dealers to keep detailed records of their suppliers.
The ONS figures were quoted by Home Office minister Sarah Newton this week, in answer to a question from Labour MP David Hanson.
Hanson issued a written question asking: “What funding has been allocated to each constabulary to tackle scrap metal theft and enforcement of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 in each year since 2010?”
Newton replied: “The Government is not providing funding specifically to police forces to tackle metal theft.
“We provide funding for individual police budgets, and police and crime commissioners determine according to local priorities how this funding is allocated to tackle crime.”
However, she said additional funding of £6m was given to the National Metal Theft Taskforce between January 2012 and September 2014 to support implementation of the Act.
She added that the ONS figures showed the legislation was proving to be effective.