SCRAP metal thieves operating in Garstang and surrounding villages will be targeted by police as part of major crack down on rural crime.
Operation Firecrest has been launched this week to combat metal thefts across the area, and other countryside crimes including hare coursing and poaching.
Thefts of copper and lead in particular have risen in recent months after an increase in demand for metals led to a surge in prices.
In one recent incident, a post box was stolen from Strickens Lane, Barnacre, and in another, thieves targeted scrap metal dealers in Garstang on Sunday night, stealing £600 of assorted metals, and machinery worth £350.
Hotspots have also included premises around Great Eccleston, where £1,500 of lead sheeting was taken in one raid.
Police have increased patrols in problem areas, but they say the thieves have even resorted to deception tactics, including posing as utility and road workers.
Garstang’s neighbourhood policing team are urging residents to remain vigilant, report any unexpected workmen in the area and take down and report details of suspicious vehicles.
Popular metals being stolen include copper, lead, iron, steel, aluminium and precious metals, including those from catalytic converters from cars.
PC Dave Kerfoot, of Garstang neighbourhood policing team, said: “The aim of the operation is to make it as difficult as possible for metals to be stolen in the first place, and also difficult for those who seek to trade in stolen goods.
“We will be carrying out co-ordinated activity targeting those involved in this crime, and trying to raise awareness with scrap metal merchants and the public at large about what to look out for.”
In the past three months, many local premises have reported thefts of lead.
Three men were arrested last month after 30 catalytic converters worth £5,000 were stolen from a building in Forton.
The men arrested, all from the Lancaster and Morecambe area, have been bailed pending further enquiries.
The theft of £100 worth of lead, reported on August 26, at Garstang Arts Centre, resulted in a leak in the roof and a week later, the office of the Courier on Thomas Weind was also targeted.
St Mary’s RC Primary School in Great Eccleston discovered £500 worth of lead flashing had been removed from the roof when they returned after summer.
Local tradesmen have also been the victim of opportunistic thieves, with a quantity of waste copper and brass fittings stored next to a shed at the property of a plumber in Calder Vale stolen some time between August 20 and 27.
From this week, police officers will be stepping up patrols, visiting farms and rural businesses to offer crime prevention