DEDICATED teams have been launched to target metal thieves who cause mayhem to make quick cash.
The Mail reported how Hartlepool was being “systematically” pulled apart by crooks who will steal everything from manhole covers to electric cables to weigh in for money.
There have been incidents in town where live wires have been left open and major gas leaks caused.
And in east Durham, metal thefts account for around a quarter of crimes for personal gain.
Cleveland Police and Durham Constabulary have now launched dedicated teams under the name of Operation Hansel to target the criminals who not only cause expensive and dangerous damage but disrupt people’s lives.
The Cleveland squad, which consists of one sergeant and three PCs, carried out a day of action yesterday with neighbouring forces and agencies such as the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
The day focused on vehicles that are suspected to be carrying metal that has been stolen for scrap.
Officers also carried out visits to scrap yards to check items for evidence of SmartWater, a liquid that is used to tag items so it can be easily identified.
The team is part of Cleveland and Durham Joint Specialist Operations Unit and British Transport Police are also involved in the crackdown.
Temporary Sergeant Darren Cawthorne, who leads the new team, said: “The launch of the Hansel team in Cleveland is one step further in the battle against those who steal metal for scrap.
“Together with our colleagues in Durham, we aim to clamp down on metal thieves who inconvenience others and put theirs and others lives in danger for fast cash.
“We work closely with scrap dealers by carrying out inspections at yards and checking items for any evidence of SmartWater.
“Scrap dealers have a legal obligation to know where the metal that they accept has come from.”
Superintendent Glenn Gudgeon, of Hartlepool Police, had described how thieves were “systematically” pulling the town apart in their quest to find valuable metals such as copper and lead.
His officers have carried out a series of raids and high-profile operations to stop the thoughtless criminals.
They are also working with various partners in the town, including Hartlepool Borough Council, to protect buildings and catch those responsible.
In east Durham, a team of five officers, led by Detective Chief Inspector Steve Chapman, will be based at Peterlee Police Station as part of the operation.
Anyone wanting to report a metal theft can contact Hartlepool Police on (01642) 326326, Durham Constabulary on 0345 6060365 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
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