End Copper Theft Immediately, by Killing the Black Market

Published 13 July 2023

Mayor with Police.jpg

A spike in illegal copper theft from new housing estates, powerlines, and local sports clubs around SEQ has become so bad it’s causing blackouts in housing estates and public safety concerns where streets have gone dark.

Moreton Bay Mayor Peter Flannery said it’s not just the expense causing concern, it’s become a significant public safety risk and he has urged the State Government to act.

“While this is a statewide issue here in Moreton Bay we’ve seen a sharp spike in copper thefts at project sites like sporting field upgrades, street lighting projects, and even a train station that’s been hit five times in the last six weeks,” Mayor Flannery said.

“Some 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 the resources of police, Energex, and Council even further.

“Under the Second-Hand Dealers and Pawnbrokers Act 2003 thieves can take stolen copper to a pawn broker without proof of ID, receive a cash payment, and just walk away.

“It’s ludicrous, we need proper accounting and records here that police can follow-up on to track criminals down.

“Essentially this legislative oversight has enabled a black market, and we need to close that loophole immediately.”

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

  1. Prohibit scrap metal dealers from paying cash for scrap metal,
  2. Require scrap metal dealers to report suspicious transactions to the police,
  3. 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
  4. Reflect contemporary comparable legislation in other jurisdictions (i.e. NSW Scrap Metal Industry Act 2016).

Senior Constable Jo Arthur said police relied on locals as their eyes and ears, urging residents to watch for suspicious activity when people look like they’re removing items from locations such as construction sites, sporting fields, rail corridors, road construction areas, energy and water supplies, and community venues.

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

“We’ve had reports of thieves dressing up in high vis vests, setting up orange traffic cones, and ripping the wire out of the ground in front of passers-by.

“We’ve even had reports of youths ripping up some wire and tearing down the street on dirt bikes with it attached to their vehicles, to strip it out of the ground.

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

Deputy Mayor Jodie Shipway said it was an urgent problem and immediate action is needed.

“If you want to kill a hydra you’ve got to cut the head off at its source, that’s what we want,” she said.

“Across the border in NSW they’ve seen great success with changes they made 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 also record the details of the person selling the scrap metal so police can track them down if need be.

“Queensland is the only state on the eastern seaboard that doesn’t have these measures in place.

“Obviously my first concern is for the safety of our residents and reliability of power to their homes, seeing blackouts in housing estates in 2023 due to copper theft is just ridiculous.

“Then of course there’s the expense of replacing freshly laid copper wire because of some opportunistic idiots who don’t care about their community, this isn’t something ratepayers should be paying for.

“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.”