Gillian Temple, President of the Scrap Metal Dealers Association (SMDA) provided us with a review on the recent National Metal Crime Conference which was held in the Midlands.
May the 31st was a very busy day in Birmingham, as people interested in reducing metal crime descended on Birmingham from all parts of the country to the National Metal Crime Conference. The event which was hosted by the British Transport Police, was attended by in excess of 150 people who listened to the 8 speakers and partook in a question and answer session at the end of the event. The event has been sponsored by SelectDNA who held a stand and gave a talk about their work in tagging metal at a molecular level at the end of the day.
However, before that talk, the crowd which consisted of interested parties from different police forces around the United Kingdom, people interested in the effects from heritage metal theft, Associations like The BMRA and the Vehicle Recycling Association and the Scrap Metal Dealers Association all sat down to listen to the 8 speakers on a wide range of topics, with the main theme being metal crime.
First up was Amanda Blakeman Deputy Chief Constable of West Mercia police force, Amanda is the National Police Chief Councils Lead for Heritage Crime, Serious Organised Acquisitive Crime and PND. Amanda introduced herself and told of her hope that all agencies would be able to share information and work together. This became the main theme as the speakers progressed. DCC Blakeman went on to introduce Assistant Chief Constable Robin Smith from the British Transport Police. Robin recently took over the National Police Chief Councils Metal Theft portfolio. The audience were made aware of the new set up for his team of officers and their different roles. An interesting and refreshing question was posed during this talk, when Mr Smith asked the audience “What can I do for you”.
Next up was Supt Mark Cleland who is the British Transport Police National lead on Metal Crime, Mark also looked forward to working with what he recognised as the huge talent in the room. As he showed a short video to the audience helping us to think differently without using additional resources, the audience was encouraged that a different approach with new ideas to policing metal theft was possible, the people in the room had the skills, we were reminded again that working together would bring results.
Neil Austin spoke of foreign national offenders, and their ability to change identities, ATM machines being ripped away using JCB’s, need for information sharing between forces, and the need to identify key criminals.
Antonia Grey stood on stage and gave an interesting presentation with photos of eBay customers that openly advertised cash for scrap and told of her concerns that criminals were so openly active, with little intervention. She called for a return of a metal theft taskforce, and for the Environment Agency to take over the licensing of dealers.
Head of Heritage Crime Strategy for Historic England was Mark Harrison. His interest in saving the heritage metal from church roofs, war memorials and other historic items became evident as he spoke of the need to inform officers of the laws in which the metal theft criminal can break, and how important it was for officers to recognise it as a heritage crime not just as metal theft. This identification could lead to higher penalties being handed out by the courts.
Dave Knight the senior church buildings officer for the Church of England, raised a good point in his presentation when he asked “ Does it even go to Scrap yards?” referring to stolen church metal.
An unexpected presentation was given regarding slavery. Stephen Chapman, held the audience spellbound as he described the people – usually homeless or vulnerable – that were tricked or enticed into slavery and were unable to escape, some being rescued after 26 years in captivity. Stephen is the Welsh Government Anti Slavery Co ordinator. He reminded officers that when visiting yards it was important to assess whether the employees were captive slaves made to work for food and controlled by violence against them. A sobering thought and interesting topic that is becoming more common practice as more officer become aware of the act of modern day slavery.
Next up onto the platform was Nicola Guest a scrap dealer who spoke about the business she worked for and her company’s traceability of metal. She also spoke of the tricks dealers played as they fiddled the weight of metal to steal from her company or subcontractor that stole from their sites. The examples of criminal theft were many and enlighten the audience as to what means criminal used to steal copper and other metals from the Alchemy Metals Group.
James Brown ended the Conference with his talk on metal marking as stated at the beginning of this article.
One of the most useful elements of this conference was the networking of attendees, which was perhaps the main aim of the conference as most speakers had reinforced the need for forces and agencies to talk to each other, share information and think more creatively in how they were going to move on to police metal crime, in the future.
Supt Mark Cleland who is British Transport Police National lead on Metal Crime said:
“We recently launched the National Metal Crime Conference in response to rising crime levels and the concerns of our partners that there was little activity targeting those who commit crime. This was firstly to raise the profile of metal crime to reflect that metal crime is more than just theft, but also to canvass the views of victims as to how we can refresh our approach to tackling this area of crime. We are now working hard to focus our attention on understanding the problem across the UK and responding to it through prevention, education and enforcement.”
Gillian Temple – President of the Scrap Metal Dealers Association, who attended the conference stated:
“The Scrap Metal Dealers Association attended the National Metal Crime Conference to ensure we represented all our members who consist of Scrap Metal Merchants, motor salvage operators and itinerant collectors. It was great to see the conference was well attended and that metal theft is an issue that is still being focused on. The common theme appeared to be collaboration from all partnerships. We are still of the belief that education of the SMDA2013 holds the answers and as an Association we are willing to provide our extensive knowledge , and understanding how to apply the current act to beat the criminals that have latched on to our industry. As case law and the loopholes have been created over the last 6 years there is still a way to curtail criminality, not currently being deployed. Only through education and an understanding of how a yard works will that be possible. We hope that BTP take us up on our offer of working with them, by removing that criminal element that our members so strongly detest.”