ESSEX Police have vowed to act after BBC London exposed a Grays scrap dealer prepared to launder stolen metal in a trade worth millions of pounds.
BBC London was given a large quantity of copper cable from BT, which has reported a surge in thefts, for use in an investigation.
Secret filming then captured scrap dealers purchasing what they assumed was illicit metal and outlining techniques to evade the police.
An employee of Lowes Metals of Manor Road, Grays, who referred to himself as Bubsy, looked at the BT cable and told an undercover researcher: “You can’t touch BT, they’ll lock us up straight away.”
He instructed the researcher to “burn the rubber off, stretch the copper off”.
Bubsy added: “The BT stuff is like doing a bank today.”
The next day, after researchers followed his instructions, Bubsy purchased the cable.
“He’s identified it as BT cable,” said Det Sgt Chris Hearne from BTP.
“The fact he wants you to get rid of identification to me is showing he is acting in an inappropriate manner that is bordering on being criminal.”
When asked to explain their actions, the owner of Lowes Metals, Alan Lowe, said: “I take responsibility, we shouldn’t have done it. Bubsy did not know what he was doing.”
An Essex Police spokesperson said: “We actively follow-up any reports of criminal activity involving stolen metal, whether by the thieves or anyone paying cash for stolen goods. Police carry out regular check visits to scrap metal dealers, working closely with partners from council’s trading standards teams, British Transport Police and agents of companies like BT and electricity suppliers.
“We work to ensure that thieves have nowhere to sell their goods, and we encourage all dealers to report people they suspect are trying to sell stolen metal. Thankfully, the number of metal recyclers willing to take in dodgy metal is small – with the vast majority of businesses in the industry happy to work with police to put an end to the trade in stolen metal.
“Those who continue to buy and sell stolen metal are on our radar and they can look forward to enforcement action, including prosecution as appropriate. Metal theft is a very damaging and often dangerous attack on the whole community and we will keep working hard, using every technique we can to stamp it out.”