Metal thieves - your time is up.
That's the message from police forces across the UK in response to the news that legislative change is on the way.
Changes to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act will outlaw all cash transactions at metal recycling yards across England and Wales and there will be a significant increase in fines for those dealers who fail to abide by the rules.
ACPO lead on metal theft Deputy Chief Constable Paul Crowther said:
"For some time police forces and colleagues across several industries have called for tougher legislation in respect of metal theft.
"The revision of the LASPO Act will provide us with the first significant change in metal recycling legislation since 1964.
"The measures introduced will seriously curtail the market for stolen metal as there will now be a clear audit trail back to those bringing commodities into recycling yards and severe sanctions for those who step out of line."
The warning comes as police forces and partner agencies across the UK carry out the latest day of action to tackle metal theft.
Nationally, metal theft has risen in prominence during the past 18 months as thieves have targeted metal vital to the national infrastructure.
Railway cable, power cable, communication lines and street furniture have all been taken by criminals looking to exploit the cash-based system at disreputable dealers.
Police and partners have expended a huge amount of energy working to educate dealers on identifying the signs that metal has been stolen, as well as introducing schemes to make life more difficult for those dealers willing to operate outside of the law. Despite this metal has remained a viable target for criminals, who have proven they are not averse to plundering even the most sentimental targets such as graveyards and war memorials.
It is hoped that this latest day of action, coupled with the announcement of tougher legislation, will finally drive home the message that metal theft will no longer pay.
DCC Crowther added: "Time is up for the thieves who continue to steal from our infrastructure and communities.
"The day of action, on 11 October, will see police and partners across the UK taking positive action against thieves: paying visits to scrap metal recyclers to remind them of their responsibilities and working together with communities to drive home the message that metal theft is socially unacceptable."
Minister for Crime Prevention Jeremy Browne said: "The Government is taking urgent action to tackle metal and cable theft head on. As a first step we are introducing a ban on cash payments by scrap metal dealers, this will remove the 'no questions asked' cash payments which are a key driver for metal thieves and rogue dealers.
"We are also significantly increasing the fines for all offences under the existing Scrap Metal Dealers Act, and providing police officers with sufficient powers of entry to tackle illegal trading in metal yards.
"We are also working closely with Richard Ottaway MP to ensure his Bill delivers a stronger and more effective licensing regime for the scrap metal industry, replacing the outdated Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964.
"But new laws must be supported by effective enforcement so I welcome the success the police have already achieved to crack down on these unscrupulous thieves and rogue dealers."