During the past six months there has been a rise in the number of thefts – with railways, utilities substations, businesses, houses and even road signs and drain covers being targeted by criminals.
As part of a national day of action on metal theft yesterday, Wednesday 14 July 2010, officers from British Transport Police and Central Scotland Police joined forces with representatives from the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA), the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and British Telecom (BT) to target thieves and scrap yards – the method of choice for criminals to sell on their stolen metal.
During the national day of action:
Two men were arrested and are expected to appear at court later today in connection with the alleged theft of metal from a scrap metal yard.
Two vehicles, carrying scrap metal were subject to prohibition notices for construction and use offences, during a static road check. Other construction and use offences were detected and two drivers were charged for insurance offences.
SEPA identified a number of carriers operating outwith regulations governing the carriage of waste materials.
The desirability for metal has been fuelled by increasing commodity prices which have seen metals reach all time highs on world markets. In 2010, the Scottish area of BTP has already recorded 83 crimes of metal theft. This compares to 45 recorded during the whole of last year.
Detective Chief Inspector Alex McGuire of the Scottish area of British Transport Police said:
“There is no doubt that metal theft is a huge problem for the UK. The conservative estimate is that it costs UK businesses around £770million each year – although it is difficult to put a true cost on the impact this crime has.
“There have been incidents around the country in which homes, businesses and even hospitals have suffered power cuts and surges as a result of criminals stealing copper from power substations.”
Sergeant Kevin Chase of Central Scotland Police said: “In the last three years, we have investigated over one hundred and fifty crimes relating to the theft of metal.
“This national Day of Action is an excellent opportunity to work with partner agencies to highlight the issues surrounding these crimes and to help raise awareness amongst businesses in the Central Belt.
“We’ve taken the step of visiting every local business with connections to the metal trade, handing out leaflets and providing information.
“Many businesses are completely unaware they are in receipt of stolen goods and it’s hoped that by taking part in this initiative we’ve been able to provide a greater understanding and take further steps to curbing this type of crime.”
But it is not just power supplies that have fallen foul of criminal behaviour.
Man-hole covers, domestic gas pipes and lead flashing from homes and churches have also been taken by criminals looking to make a quick profit.
DCI McGuire added: “The aim of the day of action was to send a clear message that metal theft is unacceptable and police forces and industry are working together to address the problem.
“Often dealers are unaware that the metal is stolen and can be left out of pocket when checks carried out by police result in the material being seized. It is imperative that we continue to work with other forces and agencies to educate scrap yards, stop them from unwittingly taking in stolen metal and, in turn, reduce the opportunities for thieves to make money. No one organisation can deal with metal theft in isolation. But, collectively, and through partnership working, we can make a difference.”