Crims create copper "crisis"

Published 2:19pm 13 July 2023

Crims create copper "crisis"
Words by Nick Crockford

Theft of copper from new housing estates and sports clubs has “hit crisis point” in the Moreton Bay Region, according to Mayor Peter Flannery.

He said stealing copper creates a significant risk to public safety - and it’s time for “action”.

“It has been building for a number of years,” the Mayor said. “Our sports fields get hit regularly with hundreds of metres of copper wire stolen.”

Street lighting is also being targeted, with Dohles Rocks Road hit five times in the last six weeks. 

The cost of replacement has been $300,000 to MBRC this year and millions of dollars across Queensland.

“We’re now saying enough is enough. Let’s do something about it,” Mayor Flannery said.

Action needed

“We’re calling on the Attorney General (Yvette D’Ath) to take action. Tighten up legislation and take the opportunity for this black market to be wiped out.

“Simple legislative changes could effectively end the resale market for stolen copper immediately, which will be much more effective than any amount of CCTV, deterrent devices, or stretching police, Energex, and Council resources even further.”

The Mayor said under the Second-Hand Dealers and Pawnbrokers Act 2003 thieves can take stolen copper to a pawn broker without proof of ID, be paid in cash and walk away.

“It’s ludicrous, there’s no proper accounting or records police can follow-up on to track criminals down,” he said.

Moreton Bay Council has asked the State Government to amend the Second-Hand Dealers and Pawnbrokers Act 2003 - and bring Queensland in line with other states:

Crims create copper "crisis"

- Prohibit scrap metal dealers from paying cash for scrap metal

- Require scrap metal dealers to report suspicious transactions to the police

- Require scrap metal dealers to keep and maintain corresponding records of transactions for buying scrap metal, including details of the person selling the scrap metal, and

- Reflect contemporary comparable legislation in other jurisdictions (i.e. NSW Scrap Metal Industry Act 2016).

Senior Constable Jo Arthur wants residents to report suspicious activity at construction sites, sports fields, rail corridors, road construction areas, energy, water supplies and community venues.

“These are organised, cunning criminals who have become so emboldened some thefts are happening in broad daylight,” she said.

Live wires

“We’ve had reports of thieves dressing up as Energex or Powerlink crews, setting up orange traffic cones, and ripping the wire out of the ground in front of passers-by.

“We’ve even had reports of kids ripping up some wire and riding down the street with it attached to their bikes to strip it out of the ground.

“It’s a wonder someone hasn’t been killed yet, because they’re playing with live electrical wires.”

Deputy Mayor Jodie Shipway (Div 4) added: “If you want to kill a hydra you’ve got to cut the head off at its source, that’s what we want.

“In NSW they’ve seen great success with changes to their scrap metal act, by requiring scrap metal traders to be registered, prohibiting cash payments for scrap metal, forcing traders to record all transactions and record the details of the person selling the scrap metal so police can track them down, if need be.

“Frankly this situation cannot go on, and if we can end the problem with the stroke of a pen then let’s get that done.”

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