A COMPLETE shutdown of scrap metal exports for two to three months is the only way to stem the tide of metal theft, which has wreaked havoc in some communities.
Trinidad and Tobago Scrap Iron Dealers Association President Allan Ferguson made the call during a press conference at his office in Kelly Village, Caroni, yesterday.
In Bournes Road, St James, copper fittings on Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) pipes were stolen last week and the community has been without water since. Residents demanded that once the pipes were repaired, the police would carry out patrols between 2 and 5 a.m. when the bandits struck.
In other areas, thieves ripped out live wires, plunging some communities into darkness while some of the thieves were killed doing so.
Ferguson admitted the association had received complaints but hastily added that band members would never condone the theft.
However, he said that out of more than 130 dealers, there were ten who could be guilty and added that they were easy to find.
“We continue to tell the government, TSTT and the police that there is something we can do to stop the theft immediately,” he said.
He explained that all dealers should be licensed by the Ministry of Trade and Industry and therefore their addresses would be available.
He suggested that police visit some of these yards and examine shipping containers to determine what may have been stolen versus what was not. He said yards found guilty of accepting stolen metals should have their owners arrested and companies banned from doing business.
“I am saying today to the government to suspend the export of copper and these other metals until we get it right. So again I am asking the government to sit down with us please. to discuss the way forward,” he said.
“The majority of people who steal copper are not members of our association but people on the street, so we will accept the stoppage of exports because it is the only sure way of not having a market for this copper immediately. If we don’t do it now, things will get worse,” he said.
He said that in their own yards, vehicles and people who come to trade are photographed and their vehicles are also photographed.
Ferguson added that if they are unable to provide proof of the legitimacy of the materials they sell, they will be fired.
“If they come back with proof of purchase, we might take their materials,” Ferguson said.
When asked if he was willing to provide details of the wandering dealers, Ferguson said he didn’t need to.
“The police don’t need a warrant to enter these yards,” he said.
He added that details of the location of these yards were available from the Department of Commerce because to operate legally they needed a license which he said would contain the name and address of the owner.
When asked then how far he was willing to go to help stop these robberies, he replied: “The only person I fear is the Lord and I happened to go with the police to close a building site because some people believe that doing wrong is always wrong. in a good way and it’s a failure for me.
“They would never come to my yard with stolen metal. Why is that?… it’s because some people are lawless and don’t care,” Ferguson snapped.