POLICE have warned that their battle to stop valuable metal being stripped from buildings across Hartlepool will be a long one.
Those leading the effort to stop the thefts say the “economic environment” means there are plenty of people keen to make quick money from weighing in metals such as copper and lead.
Because of this, they are taking a “long-term approach” to solve the problem, including checking items being taken into scrapyards to make sure they are not stolen and helping residents protect their property.
The Mail reported earlier this month how Hartlepool was being “systematically” pulled apart by thieves with manhole covers, live electric cables and gas metres among a host of essential items being stolen.
Detective Chief Inspector Jon Green, of Hartlepool Police, said: “Reducing incidents of metal theft continues to be a key priority for officers in Hartlepool as part of Operation Guardian.
“It is not something that can be stamped out in a matter of days and the nature of the current economic environment means that unfortunately criminals will continue to attempt to steal valuable metal.
“Because of this we are taking a longer-term approach to stop them in their tracks, this includes stopping and checking the validity of metal being weighed-in at scrap metal merchants and educating people about how to prevent themselves from becoming victims.
“We have already made a number of arrests, many of which have resulted from suspects being stopped in the vicinity of scrap merchants.
“We have a dedicated team to look at the issue of metal theft and will work closely with our partners in order to further reduce crime.”
Police say the items being taken not only cause danger but effect the infrastructure of the town with trains being delayed, phones cut off and facilities closed.
And nothing is out of harms way as thoughtless crooks have targeted churches, schools, charities and Hartlepool United’s Victoria Park ground.
Officers are keen to stress that the thefts are having a severe impact on victims, with jobs put in danger, charities and churches forced to fork out hard to come-by cash and residents, sometimes elderly, are left facing large repair bills.
Drug addicts are being blamed for a large portion of incidents as they look to make quick and easy money to fund their habits that can cost £150 a day to feed.
Neighbourhood officers are also working with various partners in the town, including Hartlepool Borough Council, to protect buildings and catch those responsible.
Anyone wanting to report a metal theft can contact Hartlepool Police on (01642) 302178 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.