Has the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 met its intended objectives?

The Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 was introduced to reduce metal theft by strengthening regulation of the scrap metal industry. The intention was to make it more difficult for unscrupulous dealers to trade in stolen metal as the key to reducing the incidence of metal theft. In order to assess whether the legislation has achieved these objectives, the Home Office has looked at the available evidence on trends in metal theft, and asked interested parties for their views. The trends in metal theft In January 2015, the Home Office published: An evaluation of government/law enforcement interventions aimed at reducing metal theft. This paper noted that metal theft offences had increased between 2009 and 2011, very much in line with rises in global metal prices, and then fell during 2012 and 2013. During this period, a package of interventions targeting metal theft was introduced: − Operation Tornado, first piloted in January 2012 and then rolled out on a phased basis across England and Wales by September 2012. This required scrap metal dealers to request identification documentation for every cash sale and retain copies for 12 months; − cashless trading from December 2012, which stopped scrap metal yards from accepting cash payments; and − the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013, which was commenced on 1 October 2013. The Home Office evaluation found that this package of interventions drove a reduction in offences over and above the effect of a fall in metal prices and other factors driving trends in acquisitive crime. Modelling conducted at the time suggested that the interventions themselves could be credited with a fall of around 30 per cent, with the rest being attributable to falling prices and other downward pressures on acquisitive crime. The Home Office also began to collect data from police forces on metal theft in April 2012 and this now provides data on trends over a five year period. The table below shows that there has been a continuing downward trend in numbers of offences during this period.

Stolen scrap


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