Metal thefts to be tackled by new crime-busting scheme

A NEW crime-busting scheme has been launched as part of a national week of action to tackle metal thefts.

Police have asked scrap metal dealers to sign up to an initiative to make it easier for officers to trace sellers of stolen metal. It will not inhibit those who operate legitimately.

Dealers have already started signing up to the scheme while officers and partner agencies including local authorities, BT Openreach and HMRC have been carrying out enforcement activity.

The Responsible Scrap Metal Dealer Scheme is part of Operation Magnet, a crackdown specifically on the theft of metal in Cambridgeshire.

So far, seven arrests have been made for offences including burglary and theft; eight vehicles have been seized; penalty notices have been handed out for offences including having no insurance; while local authorities handed out 14 fines for failing to have a trade waste carriers licence.

Det Chf Insp Kevin Vanterpool, who is leading Operation Magnet, said: “Metal theft directly affects members of the public and businesses who suffer through loss of utilities, services and property. It is a crime that affects the whole country and is heavily influenced by the growing economies of developed and developing countries.

“Our action this week is a clear demonstration that metal theft will not be tolerated in Cambridgeshire but in order to clamp down on offenders we also need the help and support of the law-abiding majority of metal recyclers.

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“This scheme is an opportunity for the industry to take the initiative and help us and our partners remove unscrupulous dealers from the market.”

As part of the agreement, dealers are not to accept scrap metal from people arriving on foot or on a bicycle, must request full proof of identification from people selling metal and retain for inspection by police and other agencies, and must keep records of the vehicle used to transport the metal and the material itself.

They also have to maintain CCTV while the business is open, while police have said they will visit dealers on a regular basis and keep them informed of crime trends.

Officers have written to more than 40 dealers and begun visiting premises as part of a national week of action which began last Thursday (March 8) and has seen forces across the country carrying out action.

Det Chf Insp Vanterpool added: “Metal theft is not a victimless crime and can affect us all, directly or indirectly. We would appeal to the public to report any suspicious behaviour, particularly at vulnerable locations such as churches and community centres, or near manhole covers beside roads. It may not be clear that a crime is being committed but we would rather receive a call about activity that turns out to be innocuous than not receive a call at all.”

Anyone with information about metal theft should call police on 101, or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111, or if a crime is in progress, 999.