METAL thefts in Sandwell have dropped by 76 per cent in the last year after the introduction of tough new laws governing the selling of scrap.

Metal theft nationally has fallen almost in half with success being down to a police clamp down and changes in the law after the problem hit epidemic proportions.

It is now illegal to pay cash for scrap metal, everyone trading in scrap metal needs to be licensed and photographic ID is recorded when scrap metal is being sold. Much stiffer penalties for flouting the law are also in place.

Cradley Heath IT firm Iceblue Ltd are at the forefront of the battle against illegal metal thefts.

The company designed Dudley based scrap metal recycler Mason Metals Ltd a custom made computer system to store the relevant ID documents and pay customers electronically.

The system has been sold nationally to the scrap industry and recently surpassed £50 million worth of transactions.

Metaltrack director Paul Long said: " The merchants that have signed up with us are forward thinking, have proved they wish to co-operate and go beyond what the authorities are asking for”.

The Home Office recently extended funding to The National Metal Theft Taskforce leading to over 1000 arrest's and 600 vehicle seizures.

Ian Hetherington, British Metals Recycling Association’s director general, said “The news, however, is tinged with regret that the success of the National Metal Theft Taskforce has not been recognised with sustainable funding beyond September.

"The new Scrap Metal Dealers’ Act must be enforced with vigour – if not, metal theft will increase at the expense of the legitimate industry.”

Councillor Paul Moore, Sandwell Council’s cabinet member responsible for trading standards, said: “The new laws replaced weak and outdated legislation and strengthen the partnership of the authority and police to deal with the metal thieves who disrupt communities and cause untold misery to many people.

''Sandwell was one of the leading authorities calling for new powers to crack down on the illegal metal trade, so I am delighted that this is now being done.'