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Spotlight on theft shows flaw in laws

Keywords: Tags  scrap, metals theft, Cari, Leonard Shaw, British Columbia legislation, Sean Davidson

NEW YORK — Two Canadian media organizations put the spotlight on scrapyards in Vancouver, British Columbia, raising several questions about the region’s metals theft laws and their enforcement.

Journalists at the Vancouver Sun and CBC News earlier this month collected phone wire, an aluminum phone booth and scrap from national utility company Telus Communications Co. Offering fake identifications in some instances, the journalists sold the phone booth on their first day out and then attempted to sell burnt wire to scrapyards.

Those dealers were legally prohibited from buying property belonging to utility companies such as Telus unless the material was sold by an employee with proper identification. Of the seven targeted scrap dealers, five violated existing laws, according to a report in the Vancouver Sun.

The Canadian Association of Recycling Industries (CARI) said it was important to note that of the seven companies targeted, only two were members of CARI, and they followed all the rules.

Every dealer is expected to follow all laws and exercise due diligence when inspecting materials, according to CARI executive director Leonard Shaw.

"CARI assists members by keeping them informed about law changes, meeting with police and others, and developing a draft inspection protocol," he said. "Unfortunately, not all dealers are members. The greatest problem seems to be with non-members."

A provincial law designed to curb metals theft in British Columbia will go into effect July 23. Under the new rules, those trying to sell metals will need to present identification to the scrap purchaser, who will in turn share purchase details with police on a daily basis.

Purchasers who fail to register with the province and meet record-keeping and sharing requirements will risk fines of up to $100,000, as well as up to six months’ imprisonment.

While Shaw asserted that the move by the media groups hasn’t raised questions about the existing laws and their enforcement, he did say the existing laws are flawed.

Shaw previously told AMM that authorities have failed to understand the scrap industry and the metals theft problem. "Ask yourself this: Even if everyone refused to buy the scrap, how would that stop the theft or lead to a conviction?" he asked.

"Collecting data from sellers and passing it to the police doesn’t solve the problem, and identifying sellers is a big infringement on privacy rights," he said. "British Columbia feels that identifying will work as a deterrent. They think they can stop the flow of stolen metal. These laws do nothing to stop people from just shipping the metal out on a container."

It is imperative that industry and authorities work together, Shaw said.

In Canada, the process of drawing up criminal laws falls under the purview of its federal government, which has not been approached on the issue, he added.

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