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Metal theft crime falls by nearly half in the Thames Valley

The number of metal thefts in the Thames Valley has fallen by 48 per cent over the last financial year.

Figures for 1 April 2012 to 31 March 2013, show there were 2,052 thefts of metal across the Thames Valley, compared to 3,924 for the same period the previous year (1 April 2011 to 31 March 2012); which is 1,872 fewer thefts and a reduction of 48 per cent.

This reduction has been achieved after Thames Valley Police focused its attention on the market for disposal of scrap metal and set a target within the Force Delivery Plan to carry out 24 metal theft operations, ensuring co-ordinated intelligence, enforcement and preventative activity took place, while also developing intelligence across the whole of the south-east region.  

Over the last year, 55 targeted operations have taken place and all Local Police Areas have seen dramatic reductions in metal theft offences.

As part of its plan to tackle metal theft, the Force secured part-funding from the National Metal Theft Task Force for a dedicated metal theft team composing of a sergeant and three constables, who focussed on interacting with members of the scrap metal industry and ensuring they complied with current legislation and industry standards.

Officers also visited all 35 scrap metal dealers across the Force as part of Operation Tornado and asked them to participate in a voluntary scheme where all transactions relating to the sale of scrap metal would require detailed supporting identification documents. This process provides the opportunity for all dealers to provide an audit trail relating to all scrap metal transactions.

As well as the proactive work with scrap dealers, the Force also tackled criminality as part of Operation Symphony; a large scale operation targeting dealers who were believed to be involved in illegal activities. In May 2012, 400 officers conducted multiple warrants on both business premises and private residences across the Force. As a result of this operation, 28 people have been charged with around 200 offences relating to metal theft and are going through the criminal justice system.

Chief Constable Sara Thornton said: “This time last year, our communities faced ever-increasing metal theft, with both individual thieves and highly organised crime groups stealing many metal based products such as power cabling from our roads and railway networks; lead from the roofs of homes, churches and schools; catalytic convertors from vehicles; and even manhole covers from our roads. Thieves have consistently demonstrated total disregard for the safety of the public and themselves and this has been well evidenced by the theft of copper conductors from electricity sub-stations.

“The vast majority of scrap metal dealers work as responsible traders and within the framework of the law. However, some unscrupulous elements of the business take very few steps to check the origin and provenance of the metal that enters their yard.

“Theft of metal impacts on many levels; it isolates communities; disrupts vitals services; threatens critical infrastructure; and represents a significant cost to the public purse – estimated to be between £500 and £700 million pounds per year.

“I am very pleased we have nearly halved metal thefts in the Thames Valley with the work we have been carrying out, but metal theft still remains a key policing priority for the Force and the Police Crime Commissioner.  

“Local teams, dedicated theft resources, and partner agencies will continue to work alongside responsible scrap metal dealers to stem and reduce the opportunities for stolen metal to enter their yards and businesses. Those dealers and organised crime groups that continue to commit metal theft will be targeted relentlessly.”

Police and Crime Commissioner Anthony Stansfeld said: “We have had in the past a major problem with metal theft, and I am delighted that we have now nearly halved metal thefts in the Thames Valley. It is a major priority, and we are making significant progress. The value of what is stolen is often small compared to the disruption and damage it causes. I would like to thank all officers, staff and volunteers for their hard work in this area. In the future we will continue to work together with partner agencies to ensure that the opportunities for stolen metal to be sold are reduced and that those who commit metal theft are targeted.”