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Essex: Police halve metal thefts
4:30pm Thursday 18th October 2012 in Local News
Metal thefts in Essex have been reduced by more than 50 per cent in five months following the launch of a nationwide crackdown on the crime.
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, ranging from lead from church roofs to the metal in catalytic converters in vehicles and from high tech BT telephone cable to copper strip lightning conductors on National Grid pylons. 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 Inspector 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.
"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, 2012 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.
• At a commercial vehicle operation at Thurrock last week 17 vehicles connected to the scrap trade were stopped and 10 licensing offences and six roadworthiness offences were detected.
• During a visit to a Pitsea scrapyard last week police, accompanied by trading standards officers and Basildon Council licensing officers, stopped and checked 27 vehicles and 20 people arriving to sell scrap metal. A 30-year-old man from Dagenham was arrested for having an offensive weapon, an extendable baton. He was also wanted by the Metropolitan Police on suspicion of handling a stolen car. Officers also arrested a 30-year-old man of no fixed address who was wanted for breaching a community order for drug offences. One driver was reported for driving without insurance and another man who was stopped and checked outside the scrapyard was given a warning about giving incorrect details to the yard. He was also found to have no waste carrier’s permit and was interviewed by council officials. A 56-year-old man from Tilbury who was arrested on October 4 for giving false information to scrapyards was given a caution when he attended Basildon police station on Thursday. A 21-year-old man from Brentwood who was arrested on October 5 on suspicion of giving false information to yards was reported for summons for four offences.
• In an operation at Colchester on Friday October 12 more than 100 vehicles, including 45 carrying scrap metal, were stopped at The Hythe and checked by police and partner agencies. Six vehicles were found to be carrying scrap without a licence, a truck laden with scrap was seized when it was found to be uninsured and the driver was arrested for driving while disqualified. Two vehicles were found to be illegally running on Kerosene to avoid fuel duty and the drivers faced heavy fines. Seven other uninsured vehicles were seized and numerous other motoring offences were discovered.
• A smaller but similar operation at Felsted led to 15 vehicles being stopped for various reasons.
• Similar operations are continuing regularly across the county.