A joint CBC News-Vancouver Sun hidden camera investigation into "hot metal" caught several scrap metal dealers in the Lower Mainland red-handed, when they secretly recorded them buying scrap designed to look suspicious in violation of municipal by-laws.
Mike Salo, an honest scrap dealer in Maple Ridge, is frustrated with the prevalence of metal theft and has had repeated problems due to the theft of telecommunication wire in his area.
"I'm tired of thieves. I'm tired of not having phone service. I've had no phone service several times this year, people just snipping the wires," Salo said.
One day after losing phone service, a suspicious seller came in to his business with burned wire. Salo says he was almost certain it was Telus wire. Although it's against municipal bylaws to purchase wire with all the identifying casing burned off, he purchased it to get the seller's information. He then called the police.
Ridge Meadow RCMP say they investigated the incident, but did not have enough evidence to lay charges.
Under the new provincial regulations which come into force July 23, B.C.'s scrap metal dealerswill be required to send a daily list of their metal purchases to police in order to trace potentially stolen material.
Justice Minister Shirley Bond believes the new laws will take a tough line and fill the gaps left by a patchwork of municipal by-laws.
"We're going to make sure there's a consistent approach across the province so that you can't move from one municipality to another to simply unload your stolen metal," she said.
The new laws will put the onus on B.C. scrap dealers to refuse suspicious, potentially stolen metal, or face new, tougher penalties.
"I understand some metal dealers might not like it, but at the end of the day we think this is an effective tool and again enforcement will be the key," said Bond.
Sellers with more than $50 in scrap will be paid by cheque, not cash, to reduce walk-in traffic by individuals who want quick cash.
Sellers will also be required to give their personal identity information to the dealers and police will be able to obtain that information with a court order if they believe the metal was illegally obtained.
Seven provincial inspectors will be assigned to do spot checks of B.C.'s 60 to 70 scrap yards, on top of doing their current jobs inspecting B.C.'s private security industry.
Violators will face fines of up to $100,000 and as much as six months in jail.
Len Shaw, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Recycling Industries, says dealers, not thieves, are being criminalized.
"We're not very happy about that. But the bottom line is, it's not going to be effective."
Scrap metal dealer Salo agrees.
"There's no deterrent to getting caught on say, stealing telephone wire. There's no deterrent. They go to court, they're out the next day," he said.
"People have been stealing since the beginning of time and they'll continue to steal."Suggest a correction