It is estimated that approximately PLN 100 million losses are incurred annually by railway, telecommunications and power industries due to the increasing rate of theft and devastation of their infrastructure. The actual loss to the economy and society is much higher.
On 12 November, in Warsaw, the Signatories of "The Memorandum on cooperation in preventing theft and devastation of infrastructure" organised the first conference on "Metal Theft Prevention". The Memorandum was signed on 23 August 2012 on the initiative of three regulatory agencies - UKE, URE (Energy Regulatory Office) and UTK (The Office of Railway Transportation).
One of the most important items on the agenda of the conference was the presentation of data concerning the scale of thefts and the amount of resulting losses. The scale was presented by regulatory offices, Orange Polska and the Province Police Headquarters in Katowice. Statistics show that thefts and devastation of infrastructure are difficult to control and require broad social commitment and active information campaigns. A big change was noted in this area - the region of Śląsk (Silesia) is no longer the leader in the "black" statistics - its place was taken by Szczecin, where a large increase in the number of thefts in the elements of telecommunications, railway and power networks infrastructures was recorded.
Effective methods to combat thefts of infrastructure were presented by representatives of the Province Police Headquarters in Katowice. Their activities significantly reduced the number of thefts in south-western Poland. According to police statistics, such events decreased in the south-western provinces of Poland, where their number was reduced in the past year nearly by 50%.
The Chamber of Commerce for Nonferrous Metals and Recycling (IGMNiR) invited foreign guests to attend the Conference: David Ransom, director of Pol-PRIMETT and British Transport Police officer Alan Pacey, who presented Pol-PRIMETT European project. The priority of this project is to develop a partnership of police and the private sector in order to reduce theft of metals in Europe. The British officer presented also the experience of other European countries that are struggling with this practice, which is harmful to society. He also shared experiences of the British police in combating infrastructure thefts. Decrease in the number of stolen telecommunication cables is one of the primary objectives in the plan of the British Transport Police for the years 2012/2013. Foreign visitors presented the plans for developing a European project called "Pol-PRIMETT". These plans assume among others that eight EU countries will join the Project, including Poland. The theft of infrastructure and non-ferrous metals is a global problem. It was evidenced by the data cited by David Ransom: £ 770 million of annual loss in the United Kingdom, EUR 12 million loss incurred by Greek Railways since 2010, £ 1 million weekly - the amount of compensation paid by UK insurance companies to entities that were affected by infrastructure thefts and finally stealing a 10-ton bridge and over 250 meters of the railway track in the Czech Republic. European statistics show that these negative trends are spurred by the economic crisis in the countries of southern Europe.
Previous experience of developed countries in the fight against crime related to infrastructure thefts and devastation shows that only joint actions of well-equipped law enforcement agencies, companies affected or at risk of such crime and recycling industry, may bring positive results and reduce the number and scale of crime in the long-term.
Apart from foreign guests’ presentations, the conference program included other important points: a discussion panel on metal theft impact on the economy and society, a workshop on practical aspects of combating the theft as well as presentations and interventions of the Signatories.
During the Conference, the signatories presented their plans for the following months - including activities of informative and legislative nature - preparing draft regulations on the registration of scrap and non-ferrous metals sellers, monitoring this activity, further cooperation with law enforcement authorities, schools and senior communities. Joint activities will be carried out over a period of several years and reports including their results and statistics will be provided periodically.
The signatories to the Memorandum of 23 August, 2012, expressed their hope that the cooperation with law enforcement authorities and exchange of experience with foreign partners, will reduce the scale of the metal theft, resulting in significantly decreased losses, and will greatly increase the safety in railway transport, ensure the continuity of energy supply and reduce interferences and interruptions in telecommunications services.