SCRAPYARDS across Sunderland are warning that a pilot regulation scheme threatens to put them out of business.
Operation Tornado has launched with a whirlwind of activity across the Northumbria and Durham police force areas.
Sellers of scrap metal must now show identification to scrap yard staff, supported by a recent utility bill.
But a scrap metal yard owner say an over-zealous approach by police is costing his business thousands.
James Cumberland manages Hanratty’s scrap metal merchants in Hendon, Sunderland, which has signed-up to Operation Tornado as a member of the British Metals Recycling Association.
He claims the former family-run business, which was founded in 1966, lost 40 or 60 per cent of its income in the run-up to Christmas.
He said: “The police were sitting outside here day for six weeks from 8am to 5pm.
“They have literally had our lives and the customers’ lives.
“I have lost quite a few customers. In the six weeks’ run up to Christmas, we must have lost a fortune.
“Christmas is our busiest time of year, because plumbers and people like that keep their stuff in the run up to Christmas as a bit of a bonus.”
Mr Cumberland is adamant that the yard does not accept stolen metal, but believes customers making legitimate frequent trips to weigh in scrap metal are worried police may challenge them over business insurance and other permits that professional scrap collectors need.
He said: “Anyone who comes onto my premises, we have to take their name, address, their car registration, the time they came in, what was weighed in and the price they were paid.
“If it is a walk-in or someone on a bike, we have to take picture ID. The police say we should not take walk-ins, but not everybody drives.
“We do not have a problem with doing Operation Tornado at all. We just don’t buy stolen metal. We are part of a bigger company. After I’d answered to the police I’d have to answer to my gaffers.
“For instance, that war memorial plaque that was stolen. If they had come in here with that I would have brayed them over the head with it.
“What the police have done is create a black market for scrap metal.”
Robert Allot, 41, co-owner of Durham Metals in Gilesgate, said he expected to lose 40 per cent of his business.
“How is my yard supposed to compete when people can just sell their metal to a place without any hassle just a few miles down the road?” he asked.
TOUGH STANCE IS NEEDED, SAY POLICE
DETECTIVE Chief Inspector John Lingwood from Northumbria Police is adamant the tough stance is necessary.
He said: “Tackling metal theft is a force priority and we make no apologies for the tough stance we are taking on it.
“Metal thieves are causing significant disruption to rail and metro infrastructures and affecting the lives of thousands of people in the region and we will not tolerate it.
“We are fully supportive of the Operation Tornado initiative to introduce enhanced identification measures and the subsequent proposed compliance checks.
“We are working with the BTP, scrap metal dealers and our communities and have a number of partnership initiatives running designed to target scrap metal thieves and any yards believed to be knowingly handling stolen scrap.
“Those operating legitimately have nothing to fear, however anyone caught stealing, carrying stolen metal or attempting to sell stolen metal will be arrested.”