Metal theft law to protect public safety, infrastructure
Economy, Families Tuesday, November 1, 2011 12:15 PM

VICTORIA - Tracking scrap metal sales across B.C. will help to deter copper thieves, protect 911 emergency service, prevent theft-related power outages and save utilities, municipalities and taxpayers millions of dollars a year, under proposed legislation to be introduced.

Audio of the metal theft law announcement

Announced as Crime Prevention Week begins in B.C., Bill 13, the Metal Dealers and Recyclers Act, fulfils a key commitment in the Oct. 3 throne speech. If passed, the act will make B.C. the first Canadian province with legislation targeting scrap-metal transactions.

Currently, fewer than a dozen Lower Mainland municipalities have bylaws that require scrap dealers to maintain records of copper and other high-value metals they purchase, and to share details daily with local police. Variations in bylaws and enforcement have failed to curb the problem, and municipalities and utilities have called for a consistent, provincial approach.

The new law is designed to help to deter and prosecute metal thieves, minimize regulatory costs for the recycling industry and protect the personal information of those who sell metal to scrap dealers. Under it:

  • Those who deal in high-value metals like copper, which are targets for metal thieves, will be required to record details including the weight and type of metal purchased, any distinguishing marks on it, and where the seller says he or she got it.
  • Dealers will share these details with local police on a daily basis and must keep their records for a minimum of one year.
  • Dealers will also record each seller's personal information, including their full name, current address, telephone number and date of birth, as well as vehicle or pick-up address details.
  • To protect sellers' privacy, dealers will assign a unique code to each customer from whom they buy metal. This code will accompany purchase information supplied to the police. Dealers will only release a seller's personal information to police who present a court order for that information.
  • The law will prohibit dealers from buying regulated scrap metal from any seller unable or unwilling to provide required information.

The proposed legislation avoids the financial and administrative burden of licensing, but will create a dealer registry and a system of compliance and enforcement by appointed inspectors. More specific details - including the types of metal to be regulated, and the penalties for failing to comply with the law - will follow when the Province develops complementary regulations.


Mike Chadwick, Chief Constable, Saanich Police Department -

"Law enforcement is supportive of this initiative because of the obvious benefits to public safety. Each year, metal thefts put first responders and the public at serious risk as a result of destruction of critical infrastructure such as telephone lines and hydro installations."

Quick Facts:

  • Metal theft frequently causes widespread phone service disruption. Last December, more than 500 Maple Ridge residents lost 911 emergency service after thieves stole copper telephone wire.
  • TELUS has estimated each of the 200 metal theft incidents it dealt with in the Lower Mainland last year cost $50,000 on average to repair.
  • About 10 Lower Mainland municipalities currently have metal theft bylaws.
Click here for Op-Ed by Minister Shirley Bond on metal thieves


Government Communications and Public Engagement
Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General
250 356-6961

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