Residents of Cadoxton wardened housing had trouble with metal thieves while I was a councillor in that ward. There were also thefts on the Great Western main line. Counter-measures were taken and there seems to have been no recurrence round here. However, metal theft is clearly still a cause for concern in England, because there is a symposium in Westminster later today. The introduction states:
Metal theft affects everyone, whether they know it or not. This crime continues to pose a significant problem in the UK, with an estimated cost to the UK economy of £770 million according to the Association of Chief Police Officers. There are also personal, societal and environmental costs, whether it is damage to a church roof, power outages or rail passengers and train operating companies faced with costly delays after cable has been stolen from the railway.
Latest figures reveal that there were 16,155 metal theft offences recorded by the police (42 forces) in the year ending March 2016, a decrease of over a third (38%) compared with the same forces for the previous year. Over the same period (for the same 42 police forces) infrastructure-related metal theft offences, which include those that have a direct impact on the functioning or structure of buildings or services, decreased by 36% while non-infrastructure-related metal theft decreased by 40%. There were 3 metal theft offences per 10,000 population in England in Wales in the latest year.
Despite these decreases, which the government suggests show that the Scrap Metal Dealers Act, which came into effect in October 2013, is working, as the price of metal again begins to increase, challenges remain. Consequently, the government responded to a request from the British Metal Recycling Association (BMRA) to review the existing legislation. The government launched a consultation in December 2016, which will close at the end of January. They have indicated that they will engage with representatives of the scrap metal and metals recycling industry, the energy and rail networks, the Church of England and other religious bodies Historic England, as well as representatives from Gypsy, Traveller and Roma organisations, local authorities and the police.
A particular question that remains to be answered is whether the government will reintroduce funding to tackle mental theft that came to an end when the taskforce, established to provide a co-ordinated response to metal theft, was disbanded in October 2014. While this is unclear, it is more important than ever to promote multi-agency working to ensure the most effective response to metal theft, something that is already in effect, as the police are working with Historic England to crackdown on theft from churches and historic buildings.
The Scrap Metal Dealers Act is one of the little-noticed but important achievements of the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition and it would be a pity if the current all-Conservative government relaxed enforcement.