POLICE were out and about in Fenland yesterday (Tuesday) visiting scrapyards in a new crackdown on metal theft.
Denton’s scrapyard in Wisbech was first on the list for officers, who spent time checking the books and sites to ensure the yard was operating within the law, with the appropriate licences and insurance.
Vehicles entering the site were checked to make sure they weren’t bringing stolen goods. It was also a chance for police to do vehicle checks, such as MOT and insurance.
There were no problems at Denton’s and owner Michael Denton was happy to show officers that he was operating a legal operation.
However, he said he thought the operation was heavy-handed, with eight officers going to the premises in a van and several cars.
“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “I know what they’re trying to do but they’re doing it the wrong way.
“This is a family-run business. If a load of cabling comes in, I know it’s stolen and I don’t take it.”
PC Mark Ruddy, who attended the operation, explained the police only had one representative from BT and a cable company, who make the checks on cables, which is why all the officers involved attended the site. The number of officers also meant they could work quicker.
They were planning to visit a further three sites – two in March and one in Leverington Common.
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.
The operation is on-going all week, with officers and representatives from local councils and BT Open Reach, visiting scrap metal dealers across the county.
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.
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.”
• 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.