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Police working on national scrapyard inspection scheme

The police are developing a structured inspection programme for scrap metal dealers as the crackdown on metal theft continues to gather pace.

Home Office minister Lord Henley provided the first public details of the National Metal Theft Taskforce that was announced by chancellor George Osborne with £5m funding in November 2011.

In a letter to Graham Jones MP, co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Combating Metal Theft, Lord Henley revealed the Taskforce had six objectives:

  • Reduce the theft of metal
  • Increase the level of offenders brought to justice in relation to metal theft and non-compliance with current legislation
  • Disrupt organised criminal networks involved in metal theft activity
  • Implement a structured pattern of scrap metal dealer visits
  • Improve compliance with the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964
  • Development of an enhanced intelligence picture of metal theft activity across the country.

Lord Henley added: “The taskforce was set up in December 2011 and is being run and coordinated by the British Transport Police, under the direct leadership of a detective superintendent, with input from both the Home Office and the Department for Transport.

“The taskforce is made up of various regional hubs of police officers and partners, aligned to the11 Association of Chief Police Officers regions”.

He said 13 bids for funding had been received, with money provided to six regions. The Taskforce had also been involved in a day of action resulting in 81 arrests, and covert operations resulting in 35 arrests and £900,000 cash seized.

It was working to “develop a national structured visit and inspection programme for scrap metal dealers”.

The letter comes with the scrap industry already reeling from police raids and proposed legislation to ban cash on sites.

Lord Henley was replying to a letter from Jones to the Home Office in which the MP said: “On the issue of the £5m earmarked for a metal theft taskforce, I am concerned by the lack of detail or direction.”

Nicola Guest, a director of Alchemy Metals, told MRW she had not had any contact with the Taskforce. She said the £5m funding would “run out very quickly”.

But she welcomed any attempt to create a national structure. “Everyone concerned about metal theft has said the whole approach has been too fragmented”.

“At least with a national taskforce we may get a more organised approach. But it’s not ideal.”

Several scrap dealers told MRW in February that legitimate traders were being treated in a heavy handed manner by police and other agencies desperate to satisfy the political and public outcry over metal theft.

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