Smart way to stop thefts

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CAMBS County Council’s Rights of Way and Access Team are tapping into the latest crime fighting technology to help deter metal thieves who have been stealing gates and barriers across Cambridgeshire.

Despite being a small county, Cambridgeshire has the second largest byway mileage in England. The network is enjoyed by walkers, cyclists, riders and responsible trail riders and 4 x 4 drivers.

But to avoid abuse of the network and damage to the surface, especially during the winter months, gates and barriers are used to restrict access during certain periods – but the metal barriers have become a target for thieves who have stolen gates or parts and caused damaged at a number of sites. In total there are around 100 byway barriers in Cambridgeshire.

The County Council’s rights of Way Team has been working with Cambridgeshire Police to deter and detect the thefts and the latest weapon in their armoury is to forensically mark gates and barriers with Smartwater – signs will warn wouldbe thieves that the metal barriers have been marked.

County Council Cabinet Member for Community Infrastructure, Councillor Steve Criswell, said: “Cambridgeshire’s byways provide healthy exercise for many people. By protecting barriers with Smartwater, we hope to reduce the thefts which can spoil people’s enjoyment of the countryside and waste public money and make any stolen property easier to identify and recover.”

The marking scheme has been developed by the County Council in co-operation with Cambridgeshire Police.

PC Simon Page, from the Rural Community Action Team, said: “We are aware that byways are used by a minority of people to facilitate crime. This can take many forms, from illegal fly-tipping on the byway to damaging the gates to allow access to commit crime undetected.

“I welcome any forensic link that would help us place these individuals at the scene and lead to prosecutions.”

Cambridgeshire police have launched a crackdown on metal theft called Operation Magnet. As part of the operation they are asking scrap metal dealers to sign up to a new scheme which commits them to making it easier for police to trace sellers of stolen metal but will not inhibit those who operate legitimately.