The Home Office and Department for Transport have agreed to provide further funding for the National Metal Theft Taskforce. The taskforce develops intelligence, coordinates activity and targets and disrupts criminal networks - both the thieves and also the criminal market, including rogue elements of the scrap metal industry.
The funding follows a request from the British Transport Police, which leads the taskforce, and means the government has invested more than £6 million in the initiative since it was launched in January 2012. The latest funding, which runs to the end of September this year, will allow the taskforce to continue its hugely successful programme of coordinated national days of action.
These targeted operations against unscrupulous scrap metal dealers, in conjunction with police and local agencies, have so far resulted in more than 1,000 arrests for theft and related offences and police have seized more than 600 vehicles involved in criminality.
Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker said:
The coalition government has made it harder than ever before for metal thieves to prosper and our £6 million investment in the National Metal Theft Taskforce is reaping rewards.
Alongside our reforms to ban cash payments and regulate the scrap metal trade, the taskforce has helped to make it much more difficult for thieves and unscrupulous dealers to profit from crime.
This additional government funding will enable the taskforce to continue its programme of coordinated national days of action, which have so far resulted in more than 1,000 arrests and the seizure of hundreds of vehicles involved in criminality.
Transport Minister Baroness Kramer said:
I am pleased we can continue to fund this nationally important organisation. The potential impact cable theft has on the railways is huge, not least the inconvenience to passengers. Network Rail has to compensate operators for the disruption and this is money which could be better spent on improving the network which is a vital part of our economic plan.
For the last two years the taskforce has had a big impact in reducing the number of cables being stolen. Network Rail continues to report that the trend is in decline, with delays to passengers being at an all-time low.
The taskforce forms part of the government’s programme of work to crack down on the illegal trade of metal, and its activities have been boosted by legislation.
Under the Scrap Metal Dealers Act which came into effect in October 2013, scrap metal dealers are now required to hold licences issued by local authorities.
The licences set standards for record keeping and customer verification and councils may revoke a licence at any time if they believe the dealer is no longer suitable to hold one.
Cash payments for scrap metal have been banned since December 2012.
Statistics published in November 2013 show government action is working. There was a 40% fall in the number of offences for the three months to the end of March 2013 compared to the three months to the end of June 2012.