Agenda Item No.
THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL
CABINET: 16TH NOVEMBER, 2011
REFERENCE FROM SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (HOUSING AND PUBLIC PROTECTION): 2ND NOVEMBER, 2011
“ACTION AGAINST METAL THEFTS (DLPPHS) -
Councillor Curtis, who spoke on the above matter with the consent of the Committee, referred to his Request for Consideration as submitted, including making reference to a number of examples of metal thefts which had been covered in the national and local media which had caused considerable concern and upset to those local communities. In alluding to his rationale for requesting a report to be submitted to the Scrutiny Committee on the number of incidents within the Vale of Glamorgan of metal thefts, he called for a mandatory system to be introduced to supervise scrap metal merchants, such mandatory system including a requirement to provide two proofs of identity and the recording through photographic devices all customer vehicles entering such establishments. He also felt that it was necessary, given the level of criminal activity, that scrap metal dealers be required to use a cashless system of payment so that all customer accounts could be traced in the event that the scrap metal proved to be stolen. He also considered that given the rise in such thefts these were now blighting local communities to the extent that considerable dismay was being shown by the general public and disgust and referred to the recent thefts of materials from war memorials and cemeteries. He tabled two documents for the Scrutiny Committee’s consideration, one related to an article regarding the theft of brass memorial plaques from Barry cemetery with the latter tabled item which set out a number of adverts which he had obtained from local press which encouraged the dealing of scrap metal for payments of cash. He felt that both were unacceptable to him, to his colleagues and to the communities who had been adversely affected by such thefts.
A number of Members echoed the concerns raised by Councillor Curtis particularly given that Council premises had been previously targeted i.e. schools, Civic Offices, Barry Library with the associated additional costs that the Council had incurred as a consequence including increased insurance premiums and repair costs associated with the damage. Councillor Bertin suggested that where appropriate the use of “smart water” be used to protect the Council’s property. In addition, Councillor Thomas referred to the difficulty in detection given that unscrupulous scrap metal dealers often carried out superficial checks on individuals selling scrap metal and referred to his recent visit to a dealership in Bridgend where very superficial checks of identity had been undertaken by the dealer concerned. He also referred to adverts stating cash payments and associated ease of tax evasion as a consequence.
Councillor Hodges, in referring to the recent media reports of thefts from war memorials, enquired if the Council’s Merchant Seamen Memorial outside the Civic Offices had adequate protection i.e. an appropriate security device had been applied to the commemorative plaques. He also enquired of the Head of Public Protection as to what Trading Standards could do to deter unregistered operatives from participating in such activities, including the ability of the Council or other enforcement bodies impounding vehicles and seizing of their assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act. In response the Head of Public Protection indicated that there were currently some good practices being undertaken by local authorities across Wales i.e. Rhondda Cynon Taf and this Council in conjunction with the Safer Vale Partnership were looking at these with a view to possibly introducing such practices. He also indicated that the Safer Vale Partnership was currently engaged in a multi agency operation and strategic approach to tackling metal thefts within the Vale. He reminded the Committee that metal theft was a national problem costing the UK economy an estimated £770m. per annum. Criminals tended to see metal thefts as posing less risk of arrest and conviction, and many areas of the UK had seen increases in occurrences in line with inflating market prices for metal.
The Principal Community Safety Officer in referring to the report tabled for the Committee’s consideration, indicated that the Vale of Glamorgan’s level of metal theft actually fell by an estimated 9.2% from April to August compared to the same period for 2009/10. She also indicated that activities were in hand with the Safer Vale Partnership and “Operation Regulate”. This operation approached the issue from three angles, prevention, intelligence and enforcement. The report detailed the areas of prevention, intelligence and enforcement activities currently being undertaken as part of that operation. As for action taken to date, the Principal Community Safety Officer indicated that scrap metal dealers within Barry had been visited to ensure compliance with licence and regulations; details of scrap metal dealers were being made available on a central database that the Police could easily access; schools in the Vale of Glamorgan had been contacted with crime prevention advice in relation to metal thefts, especially lead thefts; a report had been produced to monitor the fly tipping of stripped cable throughout the Vale of Glamorgan which provided intelligence for hotspot locations; rogue trader day targeted potential metal thieves by stopping vehicles in scrap yard areas; a number of residents had been subject to theft of seemingly unwanted items that had been left in their gardens and a campaign to raise the profile of kerbside collections had been undertaken in order to reduce the number of households leaving metal products such as washing machines and fridges in their back gardens; and the level of reported metal thefts along with motive and locations would be monitored and appropriate action through the Safer Vale Partnership would be taken. The Scrutiny Committee noted that the use of “smart water” was cost prohibitive.
Councillor Curtis, in summing up his concerns on this matter, referred to a current Private Members Bill presently under consideration in the House of Lords and called on the Scrutiny Committee and Cabinet to support its passage through both Houses.
Having regard to the above and related issues, it was
(1) T H A T the Cabinet is requested through the Cabinet Member for Housing and Community Safety and the Leader to write to the Secretary of State for Justice requesting the following:
(i) That the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964 be amended with a view to introducing a robust licensing regime with scrap metal dealers paying a licence fee to fund the regulation of the licence.
(ii) That the provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 be applied to seize assets of individuals successfully prosecuted for metal theft.
(iii) That the Police be given additional powers to search and investigate all premises operated by scrap metal dealers and where criminal activity detected be given the powers to close such dealers.
(iv) That a cashless payment system be introduced for the dealing of scrap metals including the requirement for individuals to produce photo identification and appropriate means of recording details of vehicles entering scrap metal dealers’ premises via photographic devices.
(v) That Magistrates be given additional powers to vary licensing conditions and to prevent the reopening of previously closed metal dealerships successfully prosecuted for handling stolen property.
(vi) That individuals engaged in such criminal activity be dealt with by the Courts in a way that the punishment was proportionate to the consequence of the crime.
(2) T H A T the Cabinet is requested to give its support to the Private Members Bill introduced by Lord Faulkner of Worcester currently being considered in the House of Lords to address the growing problem of metal thefts.
(3) T H A T the Head of Public Protection, on behalf of the Scrutiny Committee, write to all Welsh Government AMs, Welsh MPs and the WLGA requesting the need for legislative action to be taken to address scrap metal thefts to safeguard communities and local economies.
(4) T H A T the activities of the Safer Vale Partnership in tackling metal thefts in the Vale of Glamorgan be publicised on the Council’s website.
Reasons for recommendations
(1&2) To seek the Cabinet’s support.
(3) To further raise the profile of scrap metal thefts and the need for further urgent action to be taken to address the issue.
(4) To ensure that appropriate information was disseminated to the community of the Vale of Glamorgan.”