Two metal thieves who caused chaos on the East Coast Mainline following the theft of copper cable have been jailed.  Dean March (pictured left) received 36 months in prison, whilst Richard Alan Yates (pictured right) was sentenced to 26 months. The theft of 80 metres of signalling cable from the railway line in April 2015 caused 2,900 minutes of delay for 129 trains and cost the rail industry £581,000. They received only £43.00 in scrap payment. Their small gain will be offset by a 5 year long jail sentence.

Evidence from the metal dealers and forensic analysis of the tools lead to their conviction. “Cable doesn’t really have any real value to thieves or anyone outside the railway industry, as scrap metal dealers are highly unlikely to accept any cable or pay minimal costs in return. Yet the cost to the industry to replace the stolen and damaged cable is extremely high.”  Said Detective Inspector Mick Dawes, of the British Transport Police

Elsewhere at Hartlepool Marina, 60 metres of cable was stolen in September from Northern Powergrid’s substation causing disruptions to local business and communities. Railway services in central Scotland were significantly disrupted early October by the theft of “large quantities of signalling cable”. And suspected cable thieves hitting the East Coast Mainline, the country’s busiest railway line, at Darlington caused chaos and delays for thousands of passengers.

It is clear that although theft of copper cable has fallen significantly since the introduction of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act it is still affecting businesses and the general public. The reduction is also the result of the work of the National Metal Theft Taskforce, the industry working with the Crown Prosecution Service and the Magistrates’ Association and a fall in copper prices.

Consumption in China has been the major influencer in the price of copper. China’s Purchasing Managers’ Index has over the past few months been rising steadily with forecasts predicting that demand will erode the present surplus of copper held in stock. Major mining companies have focussed on cutting costs at their existing operations as opposed to sinking capital into opening new operations.  This will in the future drive up copper prices because the existing copper available will not be enough to cover the expected increase in demand.

Research carried out at University College London found that “The theft of “live” copper cable is associated with fluctuations in copper price. As such, it differs substantially from the “crime drop” typically noted for most types of crime providing further support for the price–theft hypothesis.”

The anticipated rise in copper price will carry with it a corresponding raise in theft of cables which, as shown above, will have a negative impact on society as a whole. The Scrap Metal Dealers Act has given Scrap Metal Dealers the ability to refuse to accept stolen metals and, with the Trace-in-Metal system, the tools to distinguish stolen metal from that legitimately acquired.

John Minary, Managing Director of Trace-in-Metal Ltd says : “We help dealers to get on with their day job of reprocessing legitimate metal, without the worry of getting caught up with stolen metals. It keeps metal where it belongs – on roofs or providing vital infrastructure. We are making stolen metal 2hot2handle”