POLICE and partner agencies are asking scrap metal dealers across the county to sign up to a new crime-busting scheme.
The Responsible Scrap Metal Dealer Scheme is part of Operation Magnet, a crackdown specifically on the theft of metal in Cambridgeshire.
It involves dealers committing themselves to making it easier for police to trace sellers of stolen metal but will not inhibit those who operate legitimately.
Officers have written to more than 40 dealers and begun visiting premises as part of a national week of action which began on March 8 and has seen forces across the country carrying out action.
Dealers have already started signing up to the scheme while officers and partner agencies including local authorities, BT Openreach and HMRC have been carrying out enforcement activity.
Seven arrests have been made for offences including burglary and theft; eight vehicles have been seized; penalty notices have been handed out for offences including having no insurance; while local authorities handed out 14 fines for failing to have a trade waste carriers licence.
Detective Chief Inspector Kevin Vanterpool, who is leading Operation Magnet, said: “Metal theft directly affects members of the public and businesses who suffer through loss of utilities, services and property. It is a crime that affects the whole country and is heavily influenced by the growing economies of developed and developing countries.
“Our action this week is a clear demonstration that metal theft will not be tolerated in Cambridgeshire but in order to clamp down on offenders we also need the help and support of the law-abiding majority of metal recyclers.
“It is clear that a large proportion of stolen metal finds its way into the recycling industry through dealers who openly accept or turn a blind eye to stolen material.
“The identification measures set out in the agreement will assist the recycling industry, the police and other agencies in the detection and prevention of criminal activity. This scheme is an opportunity for the industry to take the initiative and help us and our partners remove unscrupulous dealers from the market.”
The 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.
DCI Vanterpool added: “Metal theft is not a victimless crime and can affect us all, directly or indirectly. We would appeal to the public to report any suspicious behaviour, particularly at vulnerable locations such as churches and community centres, or near manhole covers beside roads. It may not be clear that a crime is being committed but we would rather receive a call about activity that turns out to be innocuous than not receive a call at all.”
Anyone with information about metal theft should call police on 101, or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111, or if a crime is in progress, 999.