TOUGH new measures introduced to put a stop to the misery and disruption caused by metal thieves have been welcomed by a police chief.
Cleveland and Durham police are taking part in Operation Tornado to put a stop to the theft of items such as roof lead, copper piping and cables.
The crooks have damaged homes, delayed trains and put lives in danger by tampering with gas and electric piping across Hartlepool and east Durham.
From January 3, people selling scrap metal at dealers in the region will have to provide proof of identification with an address, such as a photo card driving licence or passport, along with a utility bill.
It will be in place for six months, with the option to extend it as the trial progresses.
The scheme is a joint venture also involving the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), the Home Office, British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) and the British Transport Police (BTP).
There have been a host of operations launched in Hartlepool to target the criminals, with officers based on each gate of the town’s scrap yards questioning those selling items.
They have also been carrying out covert operations at night to catch criminals red handed.
Superintendent Glenn Gudgeon, of Hartlepool Police, said: “The strategic aim of the Hartlepool partnership is to legitimise the trade in valuable metals. I believe this approach goes a long way towards helping achieve this.
“Legitimate persons selling metal will have no fear from this approach, they have nothing to hide. It is the unscrupulous thieves and handlers who will be thwarted.”
Chief Inspector Robin Edwards, ACPO spokesman, also said the new measures will not inhibit those dealing legitimately, but those helping people break the law will suffer.
He added: “We are hoping that all the estimated 240 registered scrap metal dealers in the region will sign up to be involved in this trial to help fight the stolen metal trade and make it more difficult for thieves to make money by targeting our communities for metal.”
Ian Hetherington, director general at the BMRA, said the majority of members operate regulated, licensed and permitted sites, but there has been a “proliferation of the illegal, unregulated trade”.
He said: “BMRA and our members are actively supporting Operation Tornado. The measures being trialed are sensible and provide the basis for a reform of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act – which we all want.”
Lord Henley, Home Office Minister for Crime Prevention and Anti-Social Behaviour Reduction, said: “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.”