POLICE are warning residents to be on their guard against thefts of wheelie bins which are then used to carry away scrap metal stripped from homes.
The warning comes after Peterlee Police received reports of six incidents of stolen bins linked to metal thefts so far this month alone.
Inspector David Coxon said the double-pronged crime means residents are left with hundreds of pounds to pay to replace both lead from roofs and the bins.
He said there is also the inconvenience of having nowhere to store rubbish and having to organise for replacement bins.
Insp Coxon said: “Theft of wheelie bins may not in itself seem a big deal, but people are stealing the bins and stealing lead from people’s roofs.
“It’s an emerging crime, we have had half a dozen just this month.
“There is the cost of replacing lead flashing – it might just be a couple of hundred pounds, but there is the hassle of having to wait in for repairs. “There is the cost of replacing the bin and the hassle of having to phone the council to replace it.
“But the other cost to the community is the impact it can have on the individuals concerned. The elderly could be quite disturbed to think someone has been up on their roof.”
Insp Coxon said if people reported hearing a noise of wheelie bins being moved in the early hours, he would rather send officers out to investigate and find someone putting out their rubbish than the noise to have been ignored and a metal theft to then be discovered.
It costs £20 for Durham County Council to replace a wheelie bin.
Since April 1, the local authority has had 173 requests to replace bins which have been reported stolen.
This means house-holders and businesses had to fork out £3,460 to replace the containers in just three months.
Durham Police’s Operation Hansel, which targets scrap metal thieves, is ongoing.
Two Thornley youths, aged 14 and 16, are due to appear at Peterlee Magistrates’ Court next month in connection with a lead/wheelie bin theft which took place at a house in Wheatley Hill last week.