POLICE chiefs say new laws will help them in their war against cable thieves.
British Transport Police (BTP) have revealed that crime has been cut by a third in the North-East during the last year.
But they say the fight against people disrupting railway lines and services goes on.
Changes to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act have now been brought in to help outlaw all cash transactions at metal recycling yards across England and Wales.
It will also see an increase in fines for dealers who fail to abide by the rules.
BTP Deputy Chief Constable Paul Crowther, also the Association of Chief Police Officers lead for metal theft, said: “Time is up for those thieves who still see metal as a viable target and continue to steal from our infrastructure and communities.”
In the North-East, cable theft has dropped by 66 per cent, from 512 incidents between April and October in 2011 to 180 offences during the same period this year.
Nationally, cable thefts on the railways has dropped by more than 50 per cent, with 710 fewer thefts of cable than in 2011.
Dep Chief Cons Crowther added: “For some time police forces and colleagues across several industries have called for tougher legislation in respect of metal theft.
“The revision of the LASPO Act will provide us with the first significant change in metal recycling legislation since 1964.
“The measures introduced will seriously curtail the market for stolen metal as there will now be a clear audit trail back to those bringing commodities into recycling yards – and severe sanctions for those who step out of line.”
Hartlepool officers have taken part in a series of joint initiatives under the banner of Operation Tornado to stop the theft of metal, including putting officers on the gates of recycling yards.
BTP Detective Inspector Stuart Mellish said: “Clearly initiatives such as Operation Tornado, in conjunction with better education for scrap dealers and improved joint-working with industry, including sharing of best practice and intelligence, are having an effect.
“The significant reductions mean that fewer people are having their rail journeys disrupted as a result of cable theft and thieves are having less impact on the lives of communities.”
Phil Verster, route managing director for Network Rail’s London North East Route, added: “Rail passengers in the North-East and Yorkshire have suffered at the hands of metal thieves for too long.
“Working with the BTP, we have invested millions protecting the railway and prosecuting thieves.”
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