Metal theft affects everyone. Whether it’s a
community facing a large repair bill after lead is stolen from
their church roof, power outages from copper being stolen from
substations or rail passengers and train operating companies
dealing with costly delays after cable has been stolen from the
railway – everyone will have been affected by this crime whether
they know it or not.
Chief Constable Paul Crowther has been the
national policing lead for tackling metal theft since 2012. The
most recent data from the Office for National Statistics shows a
national decrease in metal theft offences of around a third (35%)
in 2014/15 compared with 2013/14.
However, criminals continue to target the
railway and other parts of our communities, including protected
historic buildings like churches, to steal metal and trade it in
for their own gain.
In August 2016, Chief Constable Crowther
became the national policing lead for tackling heritage and
cultural property crime as well, providing an opportunity to bring
the experience and best practice from the metal theft portfolio to
the fight against heritage and cultural property crime and
replicate some of the successes we have seen in reducing metal
Cable and metal theft has a serious
impact on the smooth running of the rail network. Thieves risk
not only a prison sentence but also their lives attempting to steal
cable and precious metals from the railway. When thieves
target protected buildings like churches, their actions have a
devastating impact on communities and can lead to a total and
irreversible loss of our magnificent cultural heritage.
How we combat cable and metal theft
In recent years, we’ve seized thousands of
pounds worth of stolen cable.
We work with Network Rail, local police
forces, other enforcement agencies and the legitimate metals
recycling trade to tackle metal theft through enforcement,
education and deterrence.
- We support the
Scrap Metal Dealer’s Act 2013, which came into force on 1
October 2013. Under the new law scrap dealers have to obtain a full
license, carefully record each sale of metal to deter a ‘no
questions asked’ culture, and refrain from making cash payments in
exchange for scrap metal.
- We have helped to train Network Rail staff to
equip them with basic skills in preserving evidence at theft
- We work with the British Metals Recycling
Association to educate scrap metal dealers about metal theft –
highlighting what to look out for when metal and cable is brought
- In July 2016,
two men who conspired to steal large quantities of railway cable
were handed suspended prison sentences. The pair – a railway
construction manager and the owner of a scrap metal dealership –
stole almost 8.5 tonnes of cable in three months, which was sold on
for thousands of pounds. Their conviction followed a three-month
investigation by British Transport Police, initiated after
suspicions were raised when one of the men received a fixed penalty
notice for driving a truck with an overweight load.
How you can help
You can help protect your community from the
effects of cable and metal theft.
If you have information about cable theft on
the railway please let us know.
Call 0800 40 50 40 or
Alternatively, call Crimestoppers anonymously
on 0800 555 111.
To report cash payments by a scrap metal
dealer, you can use BMRA’s Cashstoppers
service to make an online report.