If they ‘can’t sell it, they won’t steal it’
B.C. to clamp down on metal theft by making it harder to sell
People who sell high-value metals such as copper will soon have their personal information collected and shared with police under new legislation proposed by the B.C. government.
The bill, introduced into the legislature Tuesday, is the first of its kind in Canada. It is an attempt to deter theft by making it harder to sell and purchase metals, Solicitor General Shirley Bond said.
Metal theft damages property and puts public safety at risk when such things as telephone wires are stripped and 911 services are interrupted, Bond said. In one municipality, more than $3 million in damage caused by metal theft was recorded in a single year, she said.
“We recognize provincial legislation alone will not solve the entire problem,” Bond said. “Our proposed legislation is just the first step. We will complement it with other strategies, including encouraging the federal government to develop tougher legislation regarding the impact of metal theft on critical infrastructure.”
The proposed legislation will require scrap metal yards to record details about people who sell highvalue metal, including names, addresses, phone numbers and dates of birth. The information will be shared daily with police using privacy codes. Police must present a court order to receive specific personal details, the bill states.
Scrap dealers will not be allowed to buy metal from people who refuse to provide personal information.
The number of metal thefts recorded by Telus, in which phone lines were vandalized, has doubled in the past year, said Dave Cunningham, vice-president of government relations.
“We now average an incident of one per day, 325 so far this year,” Cunningham said. “Hundreds of customers are impacted by each of those. Sadly, it’s only a matter of time until a family or someone in need is unable to access 911 because of those outages.”
The legislation is needed to curb criminal activity, he said. “We believe if criminals can’t sell it, they won’t steal it.”
B.C.’S municipal police chiefs support the legislation, said Saanich police deputy chief Bob Downie, representing the chiefs’ association.
In one incident on the Pat Bay Highway in Saanich, criminals stole manhole covers and grates over drains at the side of the road over a five-kilometre stretch, he said. “While we can’t control the value of these metals, anything we can do to make the theft of metals less attractive to criminals will be a positive change for the future.”
Bond and Downie said they believe police departments will have the time and resources necessary to monitor daily reports from scrap metal dealers.
With the legislation, police will be able to compel scrap metal yards to produce their sales records, Downie said. “Any step forward is a positive step at this point because right now we don’t have any tools in place to help us investigate these matters further,” he said.
Gary Bartlett, general manager at Ellice Recycling in Victoria, welcomed the legislation. “We run a respectable and responsible metal-recycling business and we’ve been complying with almost everything in that legislation,” Bartlett said.
“This legislation … levels the field and makes sure everybody is doing their best to combat theft and assure the public that we are, as an industry, doing our best.”
Bartlett said he turns down offers to buy material that he suspects is stolen.
“But that material goes somewhere,” he said. “We don’t know where, but we know it’s not here.”
Anyone selling metal to Ellice is identified and the exchange is recorded on video, he said. “We have records we retain from those transactions so, in many ways, it’s business as usual.”