Saturday, 10 September 2011

Metal Gear SOLD!

Rail chiefs demanded a crackdown on copper thieves today after tens of thousands of commuters suffered travel chaos.

Criminals stole copper signalling cable at London Bridge overnight. Southern Rail and First Capital Connect had to cancel and divert trains, with long delays getting into the capital.
Which presumably upset the RMT no end, since they see disrupting the commuter’s day as their job…
Thousands coming from Sussex suffered after a second cable theft at Littlehampton.
FCC, which runs Thameslink, and Southern were running a reduced timetable and some trains were not stopping at London Bridge.
It appears that the rail companies are finally getting fed up with the lackadaisical response from the justice system:
The thefts are the latest in a series to hit the industry, and Network Rail is demanding a change in the law dealing with them. It wants much harsher penalties, including long jail terms, and it is calling for those who buy the stolen cable to be targeted, as well as the thieves themselves.
It’s about time…
NR says some current penalties can be as little as "a slap on the wrist". It is touring courts to persuade magistrates of the seriousness of the offences.
Good luck with that!

However, this made me wonder about this story:
Hundreds of lives are being put at risk as reckless thieves are stealing vital firefighting equipment.
The police seem to be regarding it as mindless vandalism, but is it perhaps the same criminal groups?
The thefts of the dry risers at Brooke House in Basildon town centre could mean firefighters are unable to fight a blaze on one of the building’s higher floors.
In recent months thieves have repeatedly stolen or damaged the risers.

They are metal pipes locked in secure cases which allow firefighters to connect their hoses and pump water from the ground floor to the higher storeys.
It doesn’t seem as if this has occurred to the police, however:
An Essex Police spokeswoman said: “We will investigate any reported incidents of damage or theft of dry risers.

“The people responsible for this may see it as criminal damage. However, it could have very serious consequences for the residents.”
Perhaps you should look for the missing metal risers in the nearest dodgy scrapyard?

18 comments:

SBC said...

Not sure of the jury-ist-my-dick-son issues here but I thought the BTP could nick the scrapyards/dealers even if they were 'off rail'?

Perhaps the rail companies could better finance the BTP?

Woman on a Raft said...

I've just finished moaning over at E-K's on this very subject.

We need to treat the theft of functional metal in a way which reflects its use and the potential danger from its absence, not its scrap value.

Example: copper gas pipe ripped from outside a house. The owner doesn't necessarily know and there can be gas leaks from the stumps. Gas building up in a place it was never supposed to could be ignited, putting lives at risk.

I'd like to see theft charges (if we ever catch anyone, which is a whole 'nuther issue) backed by reckless endangerment of life when it's a gas pipe or a comms cable.

David Gillies said...

Metal thieves deserve a messy and painful death. WOAR is right. This goes beyond simple theft. This is causing damage to infrastructure. It is killing people. I think a first-step measure (and God knows I rarely advocate a State-mandated solution) would be to implement a zero-tolerance, first-time and you're out policy for scrap metal dealers. Accept stolen metal and that's it. Sent down for five years, your business seized, broken up and, well, sold for scrap. The 'market' would collapse in a heartbeat.

Captain Haddock said...

The Law must get tougher on scrap metal dealers, making them responsible for ensuring that what they buy is not stolen ..

This could be achieved by making them demand & record details of all sellers (backed up by valid ID) .. the recording of all transactions on CCTV .. Regular inspections of scrap yards by Police, Trading Standards & Customs ..

The Town where I live is suffering a spate of cast iron manhole & drain cover thefts .. most of which have the appropriate "owners" name cast into them ..

For as long as the price of metal remains high, people will be tempted to steal it, if they think there's little realistic likelihood of them being caught or convicted ..

Stiff sentences for the thieves .. and stiff sentences for crooked dealers ..

Metallurgy said...

I suspect some metal stolen from railways or power lines (and yes, they do sometimes find the remains of hapless thieves close to electricity supplies) ends up abroad.

Given our porous borders I expect some of the copper ends up fairly quickly in Shitania or Benefitvia.

On the other hand the UK scarp merchants have long been accustomed to taking metal in long strips and never asking where it came from.

Metallurgy said...

For Scarp read Scrap. Doh!

KenS said...

Part of the problem is that metal dealers are allowed to pay cash for scrap. A relatively simple method of cutting down on scrap metal theft would be a change in the law to make dealers pay into bank accounts. Voila, traceability. There is a petition demanding this: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/406

Gibby Haynes said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwrPuCnNbv8

MTG said...

Every batch of metal can be inexpensively fingerprinted using combinations of its isotopes to mark and register a principal owner. The measure would seriously compromise the activities of dishonest scrap metal merchants.

Copper signalling cable sites can be booby trapped using smart water sprays and these devices mark the thief for months.

It seems cheap enough to make it very tough to tinker in metal theft and plod must know why such measures are not in place.

Anonymous said...

By coincidence, for the first time in my life, I have just this week taken scrap to merchants.

I phoned around and took the best price for Al and Fe and, therefore, visited two companies.

Each took my vehicle number but the second one asked "what name would you like on the receipt?" - a turn of phrase that made me suspicious.

Both companies have websites and both are registered with the Federation of Scrappers or whatever it's called.

Unpleasant people to deal with (yes really) and an industry that is making fortunes at the moment. And an industry that might need cleaning up.

Having said that, I do wonder how on earth the thieves get rid of huge quantities of, say, copper cable which must look ridiulously dodgy? Both yards were very busy places and one would hope that the rail or electrical companies have the sense to offer a reward for information.

Paul

ivan said...

Maybe the sentence should be a year for each metre stolen - per length of cable, with 6 months for each metre bought by anyone.

Furor Teutonicus said...

XX Rail chiefs demanded a crackdown on copper thieves today after tens of thousands of commuters suffered travel chaos.XX

Is this "new" to Britain? First I have heard of it there, but in the last few years it has become a sport in Berlin.

Perhaps we have exported our scum to you?

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allcoppedout said...

And we are told crime is decreasing. None of us think it is. It couldn't be that the crooks have just shifted their focus, could it? As police statistics go in ever decreasing circles, we pay more insurance.

JuliaM said...

"...but I thought the BTP could nick the scrapyards/dealers even if they were 'off rail'?"

Too much like hard work?

"We need to treat the theft of functional metal in a way which reflects its use and the potential danger from its absence, not its scrap value. "

Spot on! David Gillies' zero tolerance is long overdue here.

"The Town where I live is suffering a spate of cast iron manhole & drain cover thefts .. most of which have the appropriate "owners" name cast into them..."

Same thing happened in Basildon!

"...and yes, they do sometimes find the remains of hapless thieves close to electricity supplies..."

Not often enough!

JuliaM said...

"It seems cheap enough to make it very tough to tinker in metal theft.."

Cheap, but manpower-consuming. I think they could just do without the added burden, so consider it an inconvenience, rather than a potential danger. AS usual, it'll take an accident to change their minds..

"And we are told crime is decreasing. None of us think it is."

Indeed!

Brian, follower of Deornoth said...

"Every batch of metal can be inexpensively fingerprinted"

This would indeed solve the problem, but only by making it an impossibility ever to recycle any scrap again.

Do you keep a record of the provenance of every metal item in your house? And should the burden of proof be placed on you to show that you came by it honestly?

The King of Wrong said...

A car boot load of copper - half a dozen cubic feet - has a value of about £10000 if it's sufficiently high purity.

Considering only the value of the metal, that alone should be enough for prison time.