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Policing Cash for Cars - an interview with the police

Collecting ELV
Cash for Cars - policing to start in earnest from December 1st
The changes to our industry which pulled us into the scrap metal dealers act and the ban on paying cash for cars is now two months old. We are all naturally concerned that this law, like many others will not be policed correctly and favour the illegal operator. We asked the man responsible for policing his views. Be warned, they are taking these laws very seriously and plan to start policing them from December 1st!

We asked Chief Inspector, Robin Edwards to answer the following questions for us. This he has done quite openly and his answers should leave you in no doubt about what's going to happen. Hopefully this will lead to a significant reduction in the numbers of illegal operators. Our questions are in the bold type with the responses in italic.

Many feel that end of life vehicles are not the same (and therefore should not be classified in the same manner) as scrap metal in as much that an ELV already has documentation to use as an audit trail and is usually a one off transaction between the owner and the ATF. Therefore an ELV is not open to the opportunity of on-going theft in the same way that scrap metal is – What is your view?

There is an overlap with ELV and scrap metal; we see this nationally and it would be difficult to legislate for either in isolation. Theft of and theft from vehicles is a problem that needs addressing in the round along with the theft of copper, lead and other metal types.

Five Million vehicles disappeared in past ten years Why aren’t police lobbying DVLA to track vehicles though the trade effectively with the V5 and CODs?

The loss of such a large number of vehicles speaks for itself in terms of greater regulation of ELV disposal routes and it is important that law enforcement agencies and partners all play their part in trying to reduce the numbers of vehicles that filter out of the system.

CI Robin Edwards
Chief Inspector Robin Edwards is the Deputy National Coordinator - Metal Theft for the British Transport Police and has been instrumental in developing the national strategy for policing Cash for Scrap and the Scrap Metal Dealers Act.
Since the late 1980s, the vehicle dismantling sector has been subject to waste regulation and with it, onerous expense in complying with an on-going build-up of legislation. At every stage the financial and administrative benefits of the illegal operator over the legal operator have grown. These are now immense differences. Would you agree that rules without effective policing creates an imbalance in the number of those operators prepared to ignore the rules over those who continue to abide by them?

No one should break the law. We are working hard with our colleagues around the country and law abiding dealers to tackle those who operate on the fringes of the industry. There will always be a minority of individuals who will try and operate outside the law and with our partners we will focus our activities to tackle this area of criminal activity. The introduction of Operation Tornado and the positive results it delivered highlighted the importance of bringing the legitimate industry, partner agencies and forces together to tackle a problem that spans borders and businesses. We have achieved significant results nationally in terms of reducing metal theft and there is a continued drive with the introduction of the new Scrap Metal Dealers Act to take this forward and continue to push crime down.

Policing should be focused on the non-compliant rather than simply visiting those legitimate operators twice a year, while those unlicensed operators are generally left alone – your views please.

We focus our activities on unlicensed operators and those who sit outside the law. I would dispute the assumption that we only target compliant operators and our national assessment process allows us to identify the yards that we feel we need focus our activity. Our operations are very much intelligence led and we have set up a special interagency intelligence unit to make that even more effective and we would encourage those within the industry who have information regarding illegal activity to share the information with us, either locally or nationally through Crimestoppers. In addition our national days of action target illegal and legal operators who we suspect of criminal activity.

Is the ‘cash for cars’ legislation to be policed by the police rather than other government bodies such as the environment agency or DVLA. Is the primary policing body the local authority or the police? If it is not the police then what is the police’s role and what difference will it make?

Both the police and the Local Authorities will tackle enforcement and compliance of the new legislation. The local authorities who issue and administer the new licences will ensure compliance and the police will undertake the enforcement of the new Act.

With public funding (which includes the police) continually being restricted, why will this not just be another case of a short term blitz to be followed by the next ‘hot potato’ taking priority and the illegal operator back in the driving seat?

Funding will always be a challenge for police forces and this is why, within the Taskforce, we have put energy and funding into embedding an understanding of metal theft and the scrap industry in front line officers.

The law came in from October 1st and I am aware the police have intentionally held back from implementing their responsibilities to allow all operators and local authorities time to become/issue licences under the Scrap Metal Dealers’ Act and to comply with the law. When do you see this period of grace coming to an end?

The transitional arrangements come to an end at the end of November with all sections of the Act coming into force from 1 December 2013. The two-month transitional period was introduced by government to allow the bedding in of the new Act, Local Authorities to undertake the registration process and support industry during the transitional period.

As it takes up to two months to get a licence and many local authorities were not in a position to issue licences on October 1st, what are police intentions with operators where the local authority has dragged its heals?

This is a question that needs to be addressed by the LGA. However, the transitional arrangements were introduced for exactly this type of eventuality as well as supporting sections of the industry through the introduction of the new legislation. Our discussions with the Local Government Association indicate that the licensing process is being managed as effectively and efficiently as possible by local authorities.

Many in our industry are wary of the police (as with other government agencies). Many feel that the legitimate operators are harassed for making themselves known and trying to operate within the law. On the other hand, the illegal operator is often ignored as they aren’t so easy to pin down. What can you say to put minds at rest that this law will not be used as a tool to harass ATF’s but used to confront the illegal operators?

The police and legitimate scrap industry have come a long way since the introduction of Operation Tornado and the benefits continue to be felt by both parties as we move forward. I feel confident that this desire to work together will be reflected across the entire recycling industry as we jointly tackle illegal operators. We will look for support from the legitimate vehicle recycling industry to assist us in weeding out the illegal operators who not only impact on the legitimate trade but cause misery to countless victims of crime.

Bearing in mind that this is national legislation, what is your opinion about the extreme variation in licence fees (£150 - £1400)?

We are not is a position to comment on licensing fee rates - this should be addressed by the LGA.

What is your feeling about mobile operators being charged a lower licence fee than ATFs? Surely, the mobile operator will be harder to police?

The fees are set by local authorities based on fees guidance issued by the Home Office. Our enforcement activities have focused, and will continue to focus, on mobile collectors as well as static sites as we move out of the transitional period and our focus remains on those who choose to transgress legislation and operate outside the law.

We would like to thank Robin Edwards for being so frank with us. Hopefully you are all licenced by now and know what to do. We also have an article this month looking at various cashless payment systems.

December 2013

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