A SCRAPYARD has been shut down as part of a crackdown on metal-related crime that police say is pulling the country apart.
Around 40 officers swooped on the Pout & Foster yard, in Mainsforth Terrace, Hartlepool, at 9am yesterday, as reported in the Hartlepool Mail.
Police arrested two people on the site before bringing them out in handcuffs and hauling them into a van.
Officers then began a thorough search of the sprawling business which will remain closed for two days while investigations are carried out.
Detectives said account books, cash and any suspected stolen items will be seized.
The men arrested, a 48-year-old man from Osmotherley, in North Yorkshire, and a 47-year-old Hartlepool man, were taken to be questioned over alleged money laundering offences at the town’s Avenue Road police station.
A house in Osmotherley was also raided as part of Operation Manson City – a North-East-wide day of action with Durham and Northumbria forces also targeting nine scrapyards, including one in Wingate.
More than 270 officers were involved in the searches across the three areas and a total of 36 arrests were made, while a “large quantity” of money was confiscated.
Detective Inspector John Chapman, of Hartlepool Police, led the raid in town.
He said: “This is a criminal investigation into money laundering. This is a cash-in-hand business and we are looking at how that money goes through the books.
“Metal thefts affect communities and the economy. People are stealing metal from building sites, telephone service providers, companies and homes.
“It dismantles the infrastructure of the country.”
British Transport Police officers were also involved in the dawn raids, as well as representatives from a number of partner agencies, including councils, the Environment Agency, fire brigades and British Telecom.
Traffic police have also been patrolling routes between the counties in a bid to disrupt the movements of thieves.
Chief Superintendent Dave Orford, Durham Constabulary’s lead for metal theft, said yesterday’s events came after “several months” of investigations.
He said: “While we have previously carried out unannounced spot checks on dealers, this is the first time we have effectively closed yards for business.”
British Transport Police Deputy Chief Constable Paul Crowther, who is chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers’ Metal Theft Working Group, was in the region for the operation.
Follow Mark Thompson on Twitter @MThompsonHMail