Ulster Unionists are urging support for a proposed Stormont Private Member’s Bill aimed at making metal theft more difficult.
There were just over 300 such thefts during burglaries and robberies in East Antrim in two years. Copper and lead were from plumbing and electrical installations and lead from the roofs of schools, churches, businesses and dwellings.
PSNI figures show that in the two years to the end of 2012 there were 182 offences in which metal was stolen in the Newtownabbey area, 76 in Larne and 45 in Carrickfergus.
MLA Roy Beggs Jnr is consulting on the proposed Bill, which he says would improve the audit trail for the sale of scrap metal.
Mr Beggs MLA said: “Legislation has been passed in the Westminster Parliament which further regulates the sale of metal for scrap in England and Wales: the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013. Legislation has also been proposed in Scotland and in the Republic of Ireland.
“In the absence of new legislation, Northern Ireland would continue to suffer from metal being stolen and could become a scrap metal sanctuary for criminals who may wish to sell stolen metal for scrap, due to lack of enforcement legislation.”
Carrick deputy mayor, Cllr John Stewart Stewart, said: “According to PSNI figures, in the calendar year of 2012 there were 16 instances of metal theft in the Carrickfergus Borough Council area and there have been significant increases from 2007/08.
“The Serious and Organised Crime Strategy notes that the theft of metal for sale as scrap is on the rise in the UK as a result of the increasing price of metal.”
In Larne, PCSP chairman Cllr Mark McKinty noted: “In the calendar year of 2012 there were 28 instances of metal theft in the Larne Borough Council area and there have been significant increases from 2007/08.”
The councillors agreed: “It is therefore important that we legislate to help reduce metal theft and to ensure that Northern Ireland does not become a sanctuary for metal thieves who cannot circumvent the new legislation in England and Wales.”
Mr Beggs added: “Responses are required to strengthen the proposal that the trade of metal for scrap should be further regulated to help deter metal thieves.”
See the consultation at www.roybeggs.co.uk/scrap-metal/