POLICE smashed their way into homes and arrested six men in the battle against metal thieves.
Catching people responsible for the stripping of houses, businesses and council property has been made a priority by Hartlepool Police chiefs as crooks have been “systematically” pulling the town apart.
In a day of action under the name of Operation Steptoe, officers barged their way into homes and a garage yesterday in Jesmond Road, Stephen Street, Jutland Road, St Abbs Walk and St Ann’s Court.
They recovered a “large amount” of what they suspect to be stolen metal, a quantity of cash, a suspected stolen caravan and four vans believed to be involved in transporting stolen goods.
A 33-year-old and a 21-year-old were arrested on suspicion of money laundering and handling stolen goods.
Others arrested were a 55-year-old and a 35-year-old on suspicion of theft, a 46-year-old on suspicion of money laundering and a 48-year-old on suspicion of handling stolen goods.
The operation involved detectives, neighbourhood officers, search officers and partner agencies in a bid to clamp down on people believed to be involved in the theft and distribution of stolen metal, and those evading tax or making money while claiming benefits.
Neighbourhood Inspector Lee Rukin, of Hartlepool Police, said: “Partner agencies, residents and business owners in Hartlepool have all felt the impact of metal thefts and we are determined to bring those responsible to justice.
“These raids should send a strong message to anyone thinking of committing this type of crime in the town that they should think again.
“We will put all our resources in place to find you and bring you to justice.
“We have had a lot of support from local residents and I would ask anyone living in the town who believes they have information on anyone involved in metal theft or handling stolen goods to come forward.”
Anyone wanting to report a metal theft can contact Hartlepool Police on (01642) 302110 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
l Durham Constabulary have also been tackling metal thefts in Wheatley Hill.
They carried out a leaflet drop asking residents to contact the police about anyone they suspect to be involved.
On Tuesday afternoon, a concerned resident told officers that they had seen young men walk past her home with a large quantity of copper piping, before entering a nearby property.
Police found copper piping cut up. A 19-year-old man was arrested and charged with handling stolen goods.
Four other men arrested, aged between 21 and 16, have been released on police bail pending further inquiries.