SCRAP thieves have been slammed for stealing a historic bronze seal.
The circular seal was the centrepiece of an imposing stone structure welcoming visitors and residents to the historic Headland area of Hartlepool.
The structure, which has been in Northgate for almost 10 years, represents the gateway to the Headland.
Hartlepool Borough Council chiefs say they are very disappointed that someone would “stoop so low”.
Officers say they are currently looking at options for replacing the historic seal which had on it the old Borough crest.
John Cambridge, a Headland Parish Councillor, said: “It is a disgrace that someone would steal something that reflects the history of Hartlepool.
“It will have to be replaced because it looks awful.
“The people that did this won’t have got much money for it because it wasn’t very big.”
A Hartlepool Borough Council spokesman said: “It is very disappointing that people will stoop so low to steal something relating to the town’s history.
“We are currently in the process of exploring what the options are for replacing the historic seal.”
Police chiefs say the theft of valuable metals continues to be a national problem.
Jon Green, Detective Chief Inspector of Hartlepool Police, said: “The theft of valuable metals, particularly copper and lead, is a national problem and a change in legislation is needed to deal with unscrupulous scrap metal dealers.
“From early into the new year, Operation Tornado will see a move towards dealers employing more rigid controls around the trade in scrap metals, with sellers being required to produce proof of identification at participating yards.”
He added that the operation is supported by Cleveland, Durham and Northumbria police, The Home Office, The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), British Transport Police (BTP) and the body which represents the voice of the scrap metal dealers, The British Metals Recycling Association.
Mr Green said: “This is much needed measure and will be fully and robustly supported by Hartlepool Police.
“We have committed significant resources into tackling metal theft in recent years and tighter regulation of dealers will ultimately mean the industry will be better equipped to police itself.”
The 9ft-high stone structure was lifted into place in Northgate, across the road from the Throston Engine House building, in the early part of 2002.
Based on the design of some of the stonework of the historic St Hilda’s Church, the entrance marker was created after a consultation with residents and Headland Town Council.
It was paid for by the North Hartlepool Partnership.
Anyone with information is asked to call Hartlepool Police on (01642) 302110 or independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.