Saanich Police are hoping that new legislation proposed by the provincial government will help curb a growing criminal problem in the Capital Region.
Metal thefts are on the rise, thanks in part to the high value of materials such as copper and aluminum. Phone lines, which are made with copper wire, are among the more popular targets, but increasingly police are seeing other materials being taken.
“We saw one case where there was a break-in and a number of brass fittings were stolen,” said Saanich police Sgt. Dean Jantzen. “That’s exactly the type of thing this legislation could help deal with.”
Saanich Police have handled 15 cases this year in which metal products were the primary target. That’s up from just five a year ago.
The problem with metal thefts, said Jantzen, is that they can create a nuisance — and potentially a serious risk — for the general public. When phone lines are damaged by thieves, for example, communication systems are compromised, cutting people off from vital emergency services.
“When lines go down, 911 goes down,” said Jantzen. “If all you have is a house phone, you can’t dial 911.”
In another recent case, thieves made off with a large number of sewer grates from a stretch of the Pat Bay Highway, creating a hazardous situation for drivers and cyclists.
Part of the reason metal products are so attractive to thieves is that they can be sold to scrap dealers with little to no scrutiny, something which the new legislation is aimed at stopping.
Under Bill 13, the Metal Dealers and Recyclers Act, scrap dealers will have to keep records of the type and weight of metals they purchase, any distinguishing marks, and where the seller says they got it. That information is to be shared with law enforcement on a daily basis, and the records are to be kept for at least one year.
Dealers will also be required to maintain a registry of sellers’ personal information, including their name, address, phone number and date of birth. To protect their privacy, each seller will be assigned a unique code. The only way that their personal info will be released to police is with a court order.
At least one local scrap dealer welcomes the new legislation.
“Most of the things in this (legislation), we already do,” said Gary Bartlett, general manager of Victoria-based Ellice Recycle. “We already check IDs, we take pictures, we itemize everything. To me it’s business as usual.”
What will change, Bartlett hopes, is the public’s perception of the industry.