A NATIONAL day of action is being held by police to crack down on metal thieves.
Officers in the Cleveland Police and Durham Constabulary are taking part in a national operation co-ordinated by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).
Forces across Britain, including British Transport Police (BTP) are coming together today to crack down on the increasing problem of thieves targeting metal and cable.
The Hartlepool Mail has reported how criminals have been disrupting people’s lives by stealing lead from roofs, railway cables, gas pipes and power lines.
Chief Superintendent Dave Orford, regional police lead on the issue, said: “Metal theft in any form is a blight on society and sadly has been having a greater and greater impact on communities in recent months.
“It currently accounts for 10 per cent of all recorded crime in the North-East and a key part of our strategy is to choke off the market for stolen metal.
“We are talking to the Government about stricter controls and legislative changes that should make life much more difficult for thieves and unscrupulous dealers.
“There are still many criminals prepared to take risks to steal metal and it is these people we are targeting.
“These action days will continue on a regular basis and will tighten the net around those involved in this type of crime.”
The latest national operation is targeting known suspects, carrying out pre-planned arrests and executing warrants at properties believed to be used by thieves.
In Cleveland and Durham, officers will carry out spot-checks at scrap metal dealers in both force areas, while roads policing officers will be on patrol to disrupt thieves travelling between areas.
BTP has seen a rise in cable thefts from railway lines in the past few months, but police say the risk is not worth the money the metal makes.
Detective Inspector Mick Jackson, who heads up BTPs dedicated cable team Operation Leopard, said: “The simple truth is that cable thieves do not make huge amounts of money from the metal they are able to steal.
“In fact, when you consider the risks thieves take to steal the cable, it simply isn’t worth the effort.
“Anyone who seeks to steal railway cable risks serious injury or even death through electrocution and, because of where the cable is situated, faces the prospect of being struck by a train.”
Lord Henley, Home Office Minister for Crime Prevention and Anti-Social Behaviour Reduction, called metal theft a “serious problem”.
He added: “That’s why we are working closely with the police, industry and other Government departments on a range of initiatives.
“We want to make it harder for criminals to steal metal in the first place and we’re looking at whether we need to change the law,” he added.