JOHOR BARU: Scrap metal thieves are giving licensed dealers a bad name, while some dealers have become the targets of thieves.
A dealer who only wanted to be known as Ooi, 36, said the public tended to blame scrap metal dealers for the rise in metal thefts.
Ooi, who has been running his business for 15 years, said many people did not realise the distinction between metal dealers who were licensed and those who operated illegally.
They blame us straight away, but they dont realise that some of us are legitimate businessmen.
We do not buy stolen goods as we are required to keep strict records of our business dealings, he said.
Ooi was commenting on The Star report that utility firms have been hard hit with thieves stealing metal worth some RM74mil in the last four years.
Ooi said he has to keep a photocopy of the identity card from each person he gets his supplies from as the police officers come by his scrap yard every month to check his records.
He also spent RM20,000 installing security systems so that the CCTVs would provide visual records of each person who entered his metal yard.
I also reject supplies that look new as they have a higher likelihood of being stolen goods, he said.
Being the target of metal thieves has become part of his business.
Early this year, he lost a container load of metal worth RM200,000 that was on its way to Sarawak from Johor.
The whole container was hijacked and we could not recover anything. Luckily I was covered by insurance.
Another dealer, Eric Sim, 37, of Gagasan Steel Southern Region Sdn Bhd, said he uses two methods to see if the metal items were stolen.
We wont buy material that looks reusable and we reject suppliers who refuse to register with us or show us their identity cards, he said.
Sim said licensed scrap metal dealers were often victims of investigations.
They have a list of licensed operators and each time scrap metal gets stolen, they come and check our yards.
Meanwhile, all the illegal operators slip away undetected, he said.
Another dealer who preferred to remain anonymous said the police never questioned him when he did not have a licence.
For many years, I was renting a licence for RM2,000 a month. Nobody came after me. Only when I decided to register with the police did I come under their radar, he said.