New bill targets theft of copper

New B.C. legislation aims to curb the theft of copper, like one that recently occurred at the Telus compound in Penticton

New B.C. legislation aims to curb the theft of copper, like one that recently occurred at the Telus compound in Penticton.

Bill 13, the Metal Dealers and Recyclers Act, is designed to help deter and prosecute metal thieves, minimize regulatory costs for the recycling industry and protect the personal information of those who sell metal to scrap dealers.

“The industry does have a bit of a black mark because it is hard to track that stuff when it is stolen,” said Colin Jessup, operations manager for Action Metals Recycling Inc. in Penticton. “It’s very hard to determine whether an item is stolen or not because there are no serial numbers on any of it, and unless we receive a stolen incident report from the RCMP or somebody in the industrial park it is very tough to tell.”

Jessup said in the short-term it may be a hindrance to his business having to implement all the changes. He said they already record licence plates and take a person’s name, but don’t ask for identification unless they feel there is some reason to. If the bill is passed it will make B.C. the first Canadian province with legislation targeting scrap metal transactions.

The Telus compound on Calgary Avenue in Penticton was a victim of a recent theft of copper wire. During the night of Sept.30 unknown persons broke into the Telus compound, stealing three spools of copper wire and a few sheets of plywood. It is estimated the total value of the theft is $5,000.

“We welcome this tough approach to regulating scrap metal sales throughout B.C. which will help protect our customers’ access to critical communications infrastructure,” said Kenneth Haertling, Telus vice-president and chief security officer. “Thieves have cut live Telus cables 325 times this year, and when they do so, they are cutting our customers’ access to 9-1-1, putting their very lives at risk. It needs to stop, and this legislation will help.”

Copper trades at more than $3 a pound, but RCMP said it is not just power and phone lines being targeted. Aluminum ladders, billboards, grave markers, street signs and even manhole covers are being stolen. Construction sites are targeted for plumbing and wiring.

Under the legislation, those who deal in high-value metals like copper will be required to record details including the weight and type of metal purchased, any distinguishing marks on it and where the seller says they got it. Dealers will share the details with police on a daily basis and must keep their records for a minimum of one year. Dealers will also record each seller’s personal information and provide sellers a unique code to protect their information. The law will prohibit dealers from buying regulated scrap metal from any seller unable or unwilling to provide required information.

The legislation avoids licensing, but will create a dealer registry and a system of compliance and enforcement.