A FARM has been targeted by metal thieves as police officially launched a new operation to stop the determined crooks.
Cleveland Police is taking part in an initiative that is being trialled across the North-East in a bid to combat the theft of items, such as piping, roof linings and cables.
Operation Tornado, which is also being spearheaded by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), the Home Office, British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA), British Transport Police (BTP), and Northumbria and Durham Police, will aim to make it easier to trace sellers of stolen metal through an identification scheme.
The problem in Hartlepool has been highlighted by the recent theft of 10 large vent fans from Brierton Heights Farm, near Dalton Piercy, with the aluminium expected to be weighed in as scrap for quick cash.
It was reported at 4.50pm on Thursday, January 5, two days after the launch of the new operation that will see everyone trying to sell scrap metal made to show proof of identity, such as a driving licence and a recent utility bill.
Lord Henley, the Home Office Minister for Crime Prevention and Anti-Social Behaviour Reduction, visited County Durham to support the scheme.
He said: “Metal theft is a serious and growing national and international problem and the Government is working across departments, with law enforcement agencies and private industry, on co-ordinated action to tackle it.
“It is clear legislation dating back to the 1960s is not sufficient to deal with an increasingly organised crime and we are examining what changes to the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964 are needed.
“In the meantime, we are working with police and other law enforcement agencies on what immediate steps can be taken to better identify rogue metal dealers.
“I welcome Operation Tornado and hope that the many legitimate members of the scrap metal recycling industry in the North-East will use this opportunity to help us to remove unscrupulous dealers who operate outside the law or turn a blind eye to stolen material.”
Superintendent Glenn Gudgeon, of Hartlepool Police, has backed the scheme that will support operations already under way in Hartlepool.
They have seen officers posted at the gates of scrap dealers and plain-clothed officers hitting the streets at night.
He has highlighted the reduction in metal thefts as one of the successes of 2011 after saying the crooks were “systematically” pulling the town apart.
He added: “To these people, everything is a target. If they can take it, they will.
“We must look at all ways to deter them and to catch them, so I welcome all the support we can get.”
The trial will continue for six months, but could be extended.
Across the country, 10 people are said to have died in 12 months as a result of metal theft.