Dramatic drop in metal theft

An intensive campaign against metal theft in the county has seen a dramatic drop in the number of offences.

There were 2311 crimes in 2011/12 compared to just 810 during the year ending March 31 – a fall of about 65 per cent.

Working with local councils, British Transport Police and BT Openreach, the force has tackled metal theft on multiple fronts as part of Operation Magnet, from regular visits to scrap metal dealers to the targeting of vehicles carrying scrap metal and days of action.

Officers have also ensured dealers are abiding by new legislation that outlaws all cash transactions at metal recycling yards.

The new laws are part of changes to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act and have increased penalties for those breaking the law.

The force has improved its intelligence gathering with dedicated field intelligence officers and a single officer in each of the constabulary’s districts responsible for co-ordinating work with support from the Central Intelligence Bureau (CIB), Tactical Team and Rural Crime Team.

Their activity seeks to identify those yards, itinerant traders and individuals who are not complying with legislation, stealing metal or handling stolen property.

Detective Inspector Sharon Dence, the force’s lead on metal theft, said: “The drop in metal theft is excellent news but we will not be complacent and our commitment to tackle theft and ensure dealers take their responsibilities seriously will not diminish.

“Metal theft is not a victimless crime. For example, theft of underground cable can potentially have an impact on thousands of people by knocking out phone lines and internet services.

“We are working with six councils to tighten up registration and enforcement around yards and we are sharing information regionally and nationally in order to prevent and detect crime and recover stolen property.”

One specific crime that has been targeted is theft of catalytic converters and the force is supporting a Crimestoppers campaign encouraging members of the public to provide information.

DI Dence added: “We worked with scrap dealers last year to get them to tighten up their checks on who was bringing them metal. We also started routinely taking information on people selling catalytic converters.

“This resulted in thefts being significantly reduced and they have stayed low despite some spikes nationally with lots of our yards deciding to stop taking catalytic converters as it was not worth their while.”

Operation Magnet, launched in April 2012, has involved regular and ongoing days of action which form part of the national metal theft campaign.

Working with VOSA, the Environment Agency and HMRC, officers have arrested suspects, seized suspected stolen cable and carried out checks on vehicles in the vicinity of scrap yards.

Officers are also encouraging the public to play their part and to report any suspicious behaviour to police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111. If a crime is in progress, call 999.