Last November, the Province of British Columbia passed Canada’s first metal theft law. The new regulations were just signed-off by the lieutenant governor and will come into force on July 23rd, 2012. They will affect both metal dealers and recyclers, and also their customers.
Some of the key points of this legislation are as follows:
- Dealers must report their metal purchases daily to police
- Sellers must provide their name, address, phone number, date of birth and vehicle description
- Sellers with more than fifty dollars worth of metal are to be paid only by cheque
- Provincial Inspectors will be checking scrap metal recycling yards for any violations
- Violators will be subject to hefty fines and/or time in prison
These types of laws have already been enacted in a number of jurisdictions, in an attempt to stem metal theft and prevent the public safety and other concerns that arise because of it. Presumably the rationale here is that people won’t steal metal if they can’t sell it for cash at a scrap yard or at least if it is more difficult for them to do so and get away with it.
It’s A Question of Emphasis
It seems to us that if people are going around stealing property, legislation must make it less attractive for them to do so with more aggressive pursuit and stiffer fines and penalties as deterrents. Because, with only the odd exception, the real problem is the thief and not the scrap metal recycling industry.
Further complicating this matter is the question of whose responsibility it is to secure assets/property so it won’t be stolen? Surely not the scrap dealer, who is at the far end of this chain.
We’re Doing Our Share.
As it stands, we at Peel Scrap Metal Recycling do take information from our customers to the extent possible under privacy laws. We co-operate fully with police whenever it is required. We will not buy material we suspect of being stolen and as a member of CARI (The Canadian Association of Recycling Industries) we are not only bound by ethical standards, we are also alerted on a regular basis to incidents of theft both in Canada and the U.S. In one instance, this actually enabled us to help police recover material stolen in the Sarnia/Windsor area (from a scrap yard, paradoxically) and apprehend the perpetrators.
Unfortunately, there have also been instances when police have contacted us, we have gone through all the paperwork and the case has simply sat in files and never was followed up. The police are most often extremely busy and these types of ‘victimless’ crimes do not always justify their time and expense. But this really sends the wrong message, especially to those engaged in the process of stealing materials they re-sell to scrap metal dealers.
An Industry Scrap Metal Deterrent Initiative We Support.
In order to keep scrap metal recyclers aware of metal theft, the Institute of Recycling Industries and the Canadian Association of Recycling Industries have created a theft reporting web site called www.ScrapTheftAlert.com, in cooperation with law enforcement agencies. This site is designed to post news of metal thefts, which, in turn, alerts dealers to the possibility that someone could be showing up at their yard, trying to sell stolen metal. We regularly receive bulletins from Canada and the U.S. and keep our buyers aware of any stolen scrap metal that could show up for sale.
A Few Twists
It’s also good to bear in mind that stolen material would not necessarily arrive in the same form it was in when it was stolen, as it could have been taken apart, or cut into unrecognizable pieces. So this can make it extremely difficult to detect.
Also, if we are found to be in possession of stolen material, it would eventually have to be returned to its rightful owner and we would be out the money we paid for it. This is a deterrent in itself for purchasing stolen property as our only recourse would be to recover the money from the thief. Needless to say, nobody’s telling us that the material we buy from them is stolen.
The Scrap Metal Recycling Industry Is A Target Too.
Lost in all of this is the fact that scrap yards, as a repository of metal, are prime candidates for metal theft. On the one hand, they are left to protect their assets themselves. And on the other hand, they are now being asked to accommodate new laws at their expense to protect the assets of others. This is causing us a great deal of concern. In the case of a criminal prosecution, besides the thieves, we are the parties who have the most to lose.
Finally, since we are a reverse retail operation, let’s put the shoe on the other foot. How does a retailer or service provider know that the money they are being paid by their customers for their products or services has not been obtained illegally?
Money Laundering Is Big Business.
According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police website, money laundering in Canada is a multi billion dollar problem They go on to point out that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that the total amount of money being laundered worldwide could be in the range of two to five per cent of world Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This is obviously a much larger problem than metal theft. And it’s true that there are regulations governing certain industries in relation to money laundering issues. But does this mean the retailer or service provider should also be forced to take information about its customers and regularly report to police?
As scrap metal recyclers, legislation like that being enacted in British Columbia makes you feel that you are being singled out and forced to comply with regulations that are extremely difficult to both enforce and police.
We would be interested to receive your feedback on this issue and on whether laws such as this new one in British Columbia will be effective in stopping metal theft or will perhaps even have the unintended consequence of deterring metal collection.
For more information on things cited in this blog, here are some links:
New B.C. Legislation – The Metal Dealers and Recyclers Act www.pssg.gov.bc.ca/metalrecycling
RCMP on Money Laundering