Operation Tornado reduceds metal thefts by 50% in five months

METAL thefts in Essex have been reduced by more than 50 per cent in five months following the launch of a nationwide crackdown.

Operation Tornado, the codename for an on-going series of scrapyard visits, roadside stop checks and district patrols, was launched at the end of May 2012, a month when 358 metal thefts were reported across the county.

Figures for September show that the number of thefts has been reduced to 161 offences.

Operation Tornado was first considered in 2011 when the rising value of metals led to a soaring number of thefts in Essex – in July 2011 the number of thefts peaked at 450. Road signs and manhole covers were disappearing and signalling and power cable was being taken from railways.

Now under Operation Tornado police are weekly routinely stopping dozens of vehicles carrying scrap and also visiting scrapyards to check sales records and also to stop and search the vehicles of yard customers.

Road policing operations such the countywide series of Surround A Town which aim to improve road safety and intercept travelling criminals are also stopping and checking vehicles carrying scrap metals. A number of people have been arrested after being found in possession of stolen metals.

Chief Insp Jason Scrivener, who is leading Operation Tornado in Essex, said: “Metal theft is a crime that affects thousands of people in many different ways. Churches, school and other public buildings have been closed as a result of theft from roofs, rail passengers have had journeys delayed, road signs have been taken, vehicles have been immobilised after catalytic converters were taken, whole towns have had their telephones cut off after BT cable was stolen. It is a serious problem and has significant financial and social implications.

Most Read

“The number of metal thefts has reduced significantly over the last six months, some of which is attributable to increased focus and engagement with dealerships but significant work is still needed to ensure that we create a hostile environment for those that choose to break the law.

“If anybody has any information or indeed identifies suspicious activity within this area please contact us or Crimestoppers so that we can target those responsible.

“I am delighted with the take-up of the voluntary code of practice that we introduced for scrapyards under Operation Tornado. Designated officers have been working hard with scrap merchants to encourage participation in signing up to the Tornado scheme in advance of the legislation changing at the end of the year. Almost 75 per cent of our scrap dealerships signed up to the scheme and I am confident that this will increase further in the coming weeks.

“From December 3, new legislation will make it an offence for scrap metal dealers to pay cash for scrap. Instead, they must pay by cheque or by electronic transfer of funds. Greater fines will also be introduced against offenders.”

Neighbourhood police officers are working closely with scrap dealers within their areas, regularly conducting spot checks and visits and organising local operations to disrupt and deter criminal offences.

Officers from the Essex Police Commercial Vehicle Unit and Casualty Reduction team are also involved in weekly operations to stop and check commercial vehicles on main highways through the county.

In all major road policing operations Essex Police officers work closely with officers from British Transport Police, British Telecom, the Vehicle Operator Services Agency (VOSA), the Environmental Agency, Department of Work and Pensions plus local council licensing officers to detect a wide range of offences.

A small operation in Felsted led to 15 vehicles being stopped for various reasons.