Telus VP Dave Cunningham and Surrey RCMP Supt. Bill Fordy examine a piece of cut cable.

Metal dealing law aims to crimp wire thieves

System to relay info from scrap buyers to police not yet in place



New B.C. regulations clamping down on metal theft are now in effect but nobody’s predicting the scourge will be wiped out any time soon.

Scrap metal buyers now must keep a daily log of their purchases and suppliers, who have to provide identification, be registered and can only be paid by cheque for amounts over $50.

The Metal Dealers and Recyclers Act aims to plug gaps in the patchwork of different municipal bylaws drawn up by cities to try to combat wire theft.

“Hopefully we’ve landed at a place where we have something that will work effectively,” said provincial spokesman and Chilliwack MLA John Les, adding the government will consider further changes if necessary.

“There are some awfully wily people out there who are sometimes pretty clever in figuring out the workarounds.”

While bylaws have helped reduce unscrupulous salvage metal buying in a dozen Lower Mainland cities, wire and other objects are still pilfered in those areas and then resold where no bylaws exist.

Despite having a bylaw, the City of Surrey alone incurred nearly $3 million in losses last year and media stings have found spotty compliance among local dealers.

Telus pegs its losses to metal thieves at $16 million last year – resulting in phone service outages that left customers unable to use 911 in emergencies – and the firm is averaging an incident each day so far this year.

“We hope it will be a turning point in the battle against metal theft in B.C.,” Telus vice-president Dave Cunningham said of the new law.

He wouldn’t estimate how much Telus might pare its losses, but said the company would be happy if it could halt the steady climb in metal theft incidents.

Everything from phone and power lines to phone booths and manhole covers get dragged in to metal salvagers, mainly by prolific offenders in search of drug money.

Provincial inspectors will also do periodic spot checks of the more than 120 scrap metal dealers in B.C. to ensure they register and comply with the rules.

Violators face fines of up to $100,000 and possible jail time.

The regulations cover not just wire – the main target of thieves – but other specific metal objects like traffic lights, signs, sewer grates and metal grave markers.

The new law was a long time coming – municipalities and utilities had been lobbying for action since at least 2006.

Questions abound over how much use police will be able to make of the information collected by buyers to pursue suspected thieves.

Dealers are supposed to relay the information on what they buy daily and police can compare that to reports of stolen items and then get a court order for more information as needed.

Surrey RCMP Supt. Bill Fordy said greater dealer accountability will give police more scope to investigate.

“If we see a pattern of persons bringing in items to a certain contact, it gives us a point to initiate an investigation and we can go from there,” Fordy said.

Surrey RCMP recently arrested a pair of prolific offenders with 700 pounds of copper wire and busted another 35 metal theft suspects last year.

Fordy admitted a planned system for scrap dealers around the province to electoronically send their buyer logs to local police isn’t yet in place and he had no estimate of when it will be ready.

“It is a priority – we’ll deal with it as quickly as we can.”

Critics in the recycling industry contend the rules put too much onus on them instead of the thieves.

Telus VP Dave Cunningham and Surrey RCMP Supt. Bill Fordy examine a piece of cut cable.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Front line workers in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows calling out for supplies

Doctors and specialists say they are in desperate need

CHEF DEZ ON COOKING: Perfecting gravy for Easter dinner

The size of the party may be small, but the meal can still be scrumptious

Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Art Studio Tour on hold

Event was scheduled for May 9 and 10

LETTER: Writer supports government ousting non-compliant hospice

MAiD: Make the decision for yourself, but keep your nose out of other people’s choices

Private investigator joins hunt for missing Maple Ridge pharamacist

Family and friends of Port Coquitlam’s Atefeh Jadidian raise money to help in search

B.C. records first at-home death from COVID-19, but 70+ hospital patients have recovered

Total of 970 novel coronavirus cases in B.C., with the majority in the Lower Mainland area

Canadian COVID-19 round-up: Air Canada cuts 15,000 jobs, 90% of flights

Comprehensive Canadian news update as of 2:30 p.m., Monday, March 30.

Canada expands 75% wage subsidy to COVID-19 affected businesses of all sizes: Trudeau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

Pay parking suspended at B.C. hospitals due to COVID-19

Temporary free parking reduces need for keypads, contact

Canadian ferry operators call for inclusion in COVID-19 travel restrictions

Domestic travel restrictions should include ferries, operators say

Snowfall warning in effect for Coquihalla Highway

Total accumulations of up to 25 cm can be expected by this evening

Cruise ships, one with COVID-19 on board, carry Canadians covertly through Panama Canal

Zaandam, Rotterdam pass through canal under cover of darkness in face of local protests

Fraser Valley sex offender charged again less than two months after prison release

Taylor Dueck, who was living in Mission, has history of sex assaults in Abbotsford

’The energy sector is destroyed beyond repair’: expert on COVID-19’s impact on economy

‘That’s never been heard of before; no one sells oil for $4 a barrel.’ – Dan McTeague

Most Read