Metal thieves carried out more than 1,200 raids on electricity substations in the last four years, according to Scottish businesses.
The raids have resulted in three deaths and more than 20 arrests. Each crime costs firms thousands of pounds in repair bills, lost power and safety risks to the public. The Metal Theft Summit being held in Cambuslang later hopes to highlight the impact of crimes on businesses and communities. Utility firm SP Energy Networks claims the thefts have contributed to the firm facing an £18m UK bill.
Jim Scott, of the Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC), said the findings illustrated the impact metal theft can cause and the risk to human life. He said: “As part of our drive to tackle metal theft, we must look to improve reporting and vigilance, as well as raise awareness of the responsibilities faced by those who trade in scrap metal – especially in the lead up to the legislation changes.”
New legislation will prohibit scrap metal dealers from accepting cash payments.
Mr Scott, whose group is run in partnership with the Scottish government, added: “By ensuring scrap metal dealers no longer accept cash payments, along with measures to record and verify the identity of people selling metal, it will provide greater traceability and curb the potential for criminal behaviour.”
The new legislation will come into force in September. It prohibits scrap metal dealers from accepting cash payments and forces them to identify sellers to better regulate the trade of scrap metal.
The SBRC has joined forces with British Transport Police, Police Scotland, DWP and Trading Standards to run Operation Scandium which involves stopping vehicles to educate drivers about scrap metal legislation.
Ch Supt John McBride, of British Transport Police, said: “While we have seen a welcome decrease in the number of incidents from a high of several years ago, metal theft continues to disrupt and inconvenience industry and the public as well as being costly to rectify.”
Eddie Mulholland, district manager at SP Energy Networks, said: “Metal theft from the electricity network continues to put lives at risk, and threaten the safety of communities.
“It beggars belief that criminals continue to dice with death for a few pounds worth of scrap metal. What is more concerning is their complete disregard for the power cuts they have caused, and the house fires they have started.
“We support all efforts to stop these selfish criminals, and restrict their ability to sell stolen metal.”
The event takes places at the Scottish Fire and Rescue National Training Centre in Cambuslang.