12/28/2012 06:03 EST | Updated 02/27/2013 05:12 EST

Metal theft down 6 months after new B.C. scrap rules

Utility companies are praising B.C.'s new legislation meant to crack down on metal theft, saying it has been instrumental in reducing incidences of copper theft across the province.

The Metal Dealers and Recyclers Act came into effect in July with the intention of combating the rampant theft of hydro and telephone wires from utilities such as BC Hydro and Telus.

The Act requires the province's 60 to 70 scrap metal dealers to record the identity information of sellers, to pay by cheque for amounts of $50, and to file daily reports of new inventory to police.

Since the rules came into effect, BC Hydro reports that the theft of its copper properties is down 50 per cent.

Shawn Hall, a spokesman for Telus, said the telecommunications provider has seen fewer thefts in the last six months than it had seen on any given month before.

"Thefts started coming down almost immediately once the legislation has come into effect," Hall said.

"With the requirement to have to show ID when you sell metal, to be paid by cheque rather than cash, it makes it far more difficult for thieves to unload stolen material."

Critics in the recycling industry say fewer incidences of theft is a simplistic measure of success.

Len Shaw, executive director of the Canadian Association of Recycling Industries, said the rules have not resulted in meaningful change.

"Ask the province whether there has been one criminal caught or prosecuted," Shaw said.

He also says police have yet to put in place a effective system to monitor the data that metal recyclers are now required to gather.

"They put a system in place where our members would register and they would collect data and send it off to the police on a daily basis. Well where? There were no resources given to the police. Nobody has taken ownership of this," he said.

Until the monitoring process is worked out, Shaw said companies can guard against losses by marking materials and fortifying security systems.