Police in scrap metal thefts crackdown

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METAL thieves have been targeted by police in Lancashire after over £1m worth of materials was stolen in the first six months of this year.

The operation, codenamed Operation Starling, comes as part of a nationwide crackdown and will see officers from Lancashire Constabulary visiting scrap yards and carrying out roadside stop-checks of vehicles believed to be transporting metal.

The activity on Friday last week was supported by a number of other agencies including The Environment Agency, British Transport Police, VOSA, HM Revenue and Customs and The Department for Work and Pensions.

Supt Jon Puttock, who was in charge of the operation, said: “In the last five years, £7m of metal has been stolen in Lancashire with over £1m alone stolen in the first six months of this year.

“The theft of metal costs individuals and businesses thousands of pounds each year – it is not a victimless crime. Not only that but stealing metal can be dangerous with thieves risking life and limb to steal pipes and cables.

“We will continue to pursue those believed to be involved in the theft of cable and scrap.’’

metal and bring them to justice. We also use property marking systems such as Smartwater to make it easier for us to identify stolen metals and arrest responsible.”

“The public has a key role to play to keep their property safe from lead and metal theft and I urge people to take additional precautions such as storing wheelbarrows, bins and ladders securely; considering the use of anti vandal paint; regularly checking their roofs and installing security lighting. Anything suspicious should be reported to the police.”

Between January 2011 and October 2011, there were 3554 metal theft crimes in Lancashire. This is an 89 per cent increase – or an extra 1679 crimes – from the 1875 crimes reported in the same period the previous year.

Lead flashing, copper boilers, piping and cables from train lines are amongst the materials targeted although police say there isn’t a huge amount of money to be made from stealing metal.

Supt Puttock added: “Cable thieves do not make huge amounts of money from the metal they are able to steal. In fact, when you consider the risks thieves take, it simply isn’t worth the effort.

“Offenders may think they will get good money for stolen metal because of the increased price of copper, but the truth is that unscrupulous scrap metal dealers will not pass on that increase to the thieves.

“Historically thieves will only get a fraction of the value of the metal they take whilst it is the few recyclers prepared to ignore the law who reap the benefits when they sell the metal on.”

Anyone with information about the theft of metal can call the police on 0845 1 25 35 45 or alternatively they can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.