Scrap metal industry skeptical of crackdown

Canada's scrap metal industry does not believe new B.C. laws cracking down on scrap dealers will cool the market for stolen metal.

Earlier this week, a joint CBC News-Vancouver Sun investigation into "hot metal" revealed businesses and individuals in B.C. are spending millions of dollars every year replacing stolen metals and wire.

The undercover Hot Metal team also caught several scrap metal dealers in the Lower Mainland red-handed, when they secretly filmed them buying scrap designed to look suspicious in violation of municipal by-laws.

Mike Salo, an honest scrap dealer in Maple Ridge, is frustrated with the prevalence of metal theft and has had repeated problems due to the theft of wires in his area.

"I'm tired of thieves. I'm tired of not having phone service. I've had no phone service several times this year, people just snipping the wires," Salo said.

Salo has taken action in the past to try to catch thieves, even buying burned wire — cables with all casing and identifying marks burned off — to get the seller's name and give it to the police.

Meadow Ridge RCMP say they investigated the incident, but did not have enough evidence to lay charges.

Under the new provincial regulations which come into force July 23, B.C.'s scrap metal dealers will be forced to provide such information daily to the police, who will be able to compare the information with reports of metal theft.

Justice Minister Shirley Bond believes the new laws will take a tough line and fill the gaps left by a patchwork of municipal by-laws.

"We're going to make sure there's a consistent approach across the province so that you can't move from one municipality to another to simply unload your stolen metal," she said.

The new laws will put the onus on B.C. scrap dealers to refuse suspicious, potentially stolen metal, or face new, tougher penalties.

"I understand some metal dealers might not like it, but at the end of the day we think this is an effective tool and again enforcement will be the key," said Bond.

Sellers with more than $50 in scrap will be paid by cheque, not cash, to reduce walk-in traffic by individuals who want quick cash.

Sellers will also be required to give their personal identity information to the dealers and police will be able to obtain that information with a court order if they believe the metal was illegally obtained.

Seven provincial inspectors will be assigned to do spot checks of B.C.'s 60 to 70 scrap yards, on top of doing their current jobs inspecting B.C.'s private security industry.

Violators will face fines of up to $100,000 and as much as six months in jail.

Len Shaw, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Recycling Industries, says dealers, not thieves, are being criminalized.

"We're not very happy about that. But the bottom line is, it's not going to be effective."

Scrap metal dealer Salo agrees.

"There's no deterrent to getting caught on say, stealing telephone wire. There's no deterrent. They go to court, they're out the next day," he said.

"People have been stealing since the beginning of time and they'll continue to steal."

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