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Metal theft falling across South West – 50% reduction

March 13, 2013, 2:41 pm

Arrests were made and property seized as police in the South West continued their clamp down on metal theft last week.

Officers from Gloucestershire, Avon and Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire and Devon and Cornwall were cracking down on metal crime during a designated day of action on Wednesday the 6th of March.

Officers across the region carried out stop checks on commercial vehicles and vans in an effort to identify stolen metal and disrupt possible criminal activity.  Vehicles were seized and others issued with Fixed Penalty Notices and prohibitions.

A search warrant was executed by Avon and Somerset Police in South Gloucestershire at the property of a man recently charged with high-value cable thefts from road works on the M5. The search uncovered additional evidence of large scale cable theft including BT cable. The man was further arrested for these offences and the theft of a trailer in Long Ashton.

Three men were also arrested in Frome, Somerset by Wiltshire officers after stolen cable was found in their van.

In Devon and Cornwall 10 arrests were made for a series of offences including non-compliance, handling stolen goods and theft. Six people were also issued with notices for not having the correct waste carriers licences. Gloucestershire police also made an arrest for theft and seized two vehicles.

In addition, scrap yards across the region also received visits to ensure compliance with the Operation Tornado I.D scheme and the recently implemented legislation banning all cash transactions. Thousands of documents and records were checked with some seized by HMIC for further investigation.

Long called for by police to further help in the fight against metal theft, changes were made to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act in December 2012, which outlawed cash transactions at metal recycling yards across England and Wales. Operation Tornado was introduced in June of last year and requires scrap metal yards to ask anyone selling metal to provide I.D supported by a utility bill to make it easier to trace sellers of stolen metal.

These measures along with the proactive and intrusive approach the region has taken since setting up a designated regional team, has meant that the South West has seen a 50% reduction in metal theft over the past 10 months. The picture is also positive nationwide with the UK seeing a 47.3% reduction over the last year.

Work also continues with other agencies including the Environment Agency, HMIC, VOSA and commercial partners to target thieves and the criminals who deal in stolen metal using both overt and covert tactics.

Superintendent Mark Saunders, from Avon and Somerset Police, who is the South West’s regional lead in tackling metal theft, said: “Operation Tornado and the recent legislation changes have really constricted the market for thieves, particularly the more opportunist thief, making it more difficult for them to sell on stolen metal and easier for us to trace. The majority of scrap yards are legitimate and compliant businesses who are working closely with us.

“The picture is looking really positive for us in the South West. Since we launched the regional Metal Theft Coordination Team 10 months ago, we have seen a 50% drop in metal thefts in the South West and in Avon and Somerset it is nearly 75%. This is extremely encouraging but we won’t be complacent.

“We will continue to work with our police colleagues, partner agencies and commercial industries to take an intrusive approach in dealing with the thieves and handlers who make money at a cost to each and every tax payer.

“Last week’s day of action is just one of a range of ongoing overt and covert tactics to prevent and detect this and other related crime and we will be relentless in tackling metal theft.”

Police in the South West are reminding anyone taking metal to yards to sell to ensure they take the necessary documents and proof of I.D. to avoid being turned away and are encouraging the public to alert their local police if they are not asked to provide appropriate identification or are offered cash payment.

If you have information about illegal activities in your area, you can either contact your local policing team by calling 101.

Alternatively you can call the charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or via they never ask for your name or trace your call.

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