Council approves metal theft bylaw change

Chatham-Kent police are hoping to return these items to their rightful places after they were stolen from grave sites at Maple Leaf Cemetery in Chatham. (Photo courtesy of Chatham-Kent police)

An updated bylaw will be coming to prevent the theft of copper and other metals across Chatham-Kent.

During Monday night’s council meeting, councillors voted unanimously in favour of making some amendments to the bylaw.

The main change is that items taken in by salvage yards must now be registered, photographed and kept untouched for at least three days before they can be sold, which will allow police to ensure they are not stolen. Salvage yards must also keep the photos of the items for one year.

“It doesn’t stop people from stealing copper wire, but what it does do is put some accountability on the purchaser,” said Councillor Majorie Crew. “So it’s just making it a little tougher to sell stolen items.”

Crew was the driving force behind the bylaw change. In May, she brought forward a motion that municipal staff look at putting tighter restrictions on the purchasing of recycled metals. She previously told Blackburn News that theft and vandalism on the Fifth Street Bridge this past spring, which delayed construction on the bridge, was an eye-opener for how bad the problem had gotten.

“They put their lives at risk, they put first responders’ lives at risk and then it’s the cost to everyone,” she said. “Not just with the bridge being shut down but it costs money and time and insurance. We all pay.”

The other main change to the bylaw is that the definition of metal scrap or wiring “salvage materials” will now also include “utility cable.”

“That’s really what a lot of people steal to get that quick sale,” said Crew.

The bylaw also strongly suggests that salvage yards install surveillance cameras to assist with identifying individuals selling copper wire. The municipality toyed with making camera installation a requirement but decided it was too much of a burden on business owners.

Several community partners were consulted with to help shape the new bylaw including the Chatham-Kent Police Service, Entegrus and the Public Health Unit.