Scrap crime is a blight on society – and the industry – say traders.

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OWNERS of one of the region’s largest independent waste and recycling firms say scrap metal theft is leaving the industry hundreds of thousands of pounds out of pocket.

Family-run SWM has suffered break-ins at all of its eight sites around the South West, including in South Molton, Bideford and Barnstaple.

The firm has embraced a police campaign to disrupt criminal activity and says it welcomes new government legislation coming into force in December to outlaw the sale of scrap metal for cash.

SWM operations director Martin Mogford said Operation Tornado had made it tougher for thieves to turn stolen materials into cash and that the new cashless trading system would help to bring a new legitimacy to the business.

He said: “We applaud and embrace the new legislation; it won’t stop metal thefts but it will make it more difficult.

“The crime has become a blight on society – a stolen war memorial ended up being brought into our Plymouth depot.

“We are at the start of the food chain in terms of recycling and it’s important that things are done right and that they are sustainable.

“It has to be a properly regulated industry and people have to come to the party – the industry is too big and too important to the local economy.”

Mr Mogford said thefts were a major cost to the business in terms of sales revenues, business disruption, increased security arrangements and on-going surveillance.

“We lost a considerable amount of brass, copper and stripped cable from our South Molton depot at the end of September 2011,” he said

“The depot was broken into again two weeks later but we’d taken steps to enhance security and we caught the culprits on site.

“The only person out of pocket was ourselves though and that one theft cost the company in the region of £100,000.”

SWM, which employs 75 people and has an annual turn-over of around £21million, is one of many businesses that have been working closely with Police, British Transport Police and BT.

“People will have to get more sophisticated. It’s been all too easy for people to steel metal and all too easy to turn it into cash,” added Mr Mogford.

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