POLICE have launched a new crackdown on metal theft in Cambridgeshire.
Operation Magnet will see officers taking a hard line on thieves who are costing the county thousands of pounds every month and potentially causing widespread disruption.
Police will be working with partner agencies to catch those responsible, deter offending and disrupt the stolen metal market.
A week of action will see officers and representatives from local councils and BT Open Reach, visiting scrap metal dealers across the county.
They will be checking to ensure the sites and people using them are operating within the law.
If they have not already, dealers will also be asked to sign up to the Responsible Scrap Metal Dealer Scheme.
The scheme involves dealers committing themselves to making it easier for police to trace sellers of stolen metal but it will not inhibit those who operate legitimately.
Op Magnet will particularly target thieves who steal underground telecommunications cables and those operating in rural areas, stealing items such as farm machinery.
Detective Chief Inspector Kevin Vanterpool, who is leading the operation, said: “It would be wrong to think of this type of crime as victimless. Theft of underground cable can potentially have an impact on thousands of people by knocking out phone lines and internet services.
“Likewise, theft of metal and machinery from rural locations costs victims thousands of pounds, on top of the disruption.
“Our aim is to work with partner agencies and scrap dealers to make it hard for metal thieves to profit from their crimes. Op Magnet will make Cambridgeshire a hostile environment for thieves to operation within.”
DCI Vanterpool said information from the public was crucial to catching those responsible.
“Thieves will try to appear like genuine workmen but will often target isolated locations at unusual times of day”, he said.
“We would appeal for people to be vigilant and report anything they think is suspicious or out of the ordinary, particularly at isolated locations or around manhole covers.”
The Responsible Scrap Metal Dealer Scheme agreement includes commitments to:
• Abide by and comply with legislation and regulations and keep accurate records.
• Not accept scrap metal from people arriving on foot or on a bicycle.
• Request full proof of identification from people selling metal and retain for inspection by police and other agencies.
• Keep records of the vehicle used to transport the metal and the material itself.
• Maintain CCTV while the business is open.
The agreement also says police will visit scrap metal dealers on a regular basis and keep them informed of crime trends.
Anyone with information about metal theft should call police on 101, or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111. If a crime is in progress, call 999.