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Howard and Byrne Solicitors, York - Criminal Defence Specialists

Police continue metal theft purge

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3:32pm 2nd December 2011

North Yorkshire Police yesterday (Thursday 1st December 2011) joined forces with colleagues from British Transport Police, Network Rail, British Telecom and Northern Powergrids to inspect two scrap metal dealers in the Malton and Pickering areas.

The inspections, carried out under the Scrap Metal Dealers' Act 1964, were part of North Yorkshire Police's ongoing metal theft crackdown, Operation Webbed which concentrates on metal and cable theft in the Ryedale and Scarborough areas.

A second leg of the operation saw a "ring of steel" around Scarborough from 6pm on Thursday (30th November) into the early hours of Friday morning. Using static checks and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR), police officers intercepted all commercial vehicles travelling into Scarborough on the main routes from Whitby, Pickering, Malton and Bridlington.

The aim was to disrupt criminal activity from two angles: one to remove the ability for criminals to make a profit from their stolen property, and to deny them the use of the road network to carry out their crimes and transport their stolen haul.

The aim of the scrap inspection was to engage with the dealer and give advice on how to spot potentially stolen metal and cable, as well as what to look for if they suspect any sellers are involved in criminality. This in turn will reduce opportunities for thieves to sell on stolen metal, cutting off their flow of cash.

An inspection of the dealers' records was carried out to ensure they were kept in accordance with the SMD Act. Records were taken away from the Pickering site for further examination. No arrests or seizures of metal were made at either site.

PC Andy Rogers who led the inspection for North Yorkshire Police, said:

"The day was very successful in terms of building up a relationship with the dealers. They were supportive of the operation and welcomed our advice on how to spot potential stolen goods. We were also able to gain a lot of valuable intelligence to direct our ongoing crackdown on metal theft.

"We also found burnt cable at both sites and gave the dealers advice not to accept this type of metal in the future."

During the operation officers stopped 68 vehicles, breathalysed 31 drivers, issued six tickets for no insurance or MOT, and seized three vehicles for not being insured.

Sergeant Trish Hope of Scarborough police, who heads Operation Webbed for the  force and led the night time operation, added:

"Today's operation had a two-fold purpose, one to engage and educate metal dealers on how to spot stolen metal and the other to root out any criminal offences.

"Metal theft is not a victimless crime and has a negative impact upon the communities in which we live. It causes interruption to power supplies, telecommunications and rail transport, meaning our economy loses millions of pounds a year.

"Taking a joint approach with colleagues from British Transport Police, the rail network and utilities means we can share knowledge and expertise in our different areas, making the operation more efficient and effective and sends a clear message that everyone is united in one common goal, namely to disrupt criminal activity and bring those responsible to justice."

Those who steal cable from the railways and other areas are putting themselves in real danger. Railway lines are operational 24 hours a day and trespassing can prove fatal. Strong currents also pass through many cables and can seriously injure anyone who touches them. Those who steal cable are not only risking a prison sentence, they are risking their lives.

Phil Verster, Route Managing Director for Network Rail, said:

"The irresponsible behaviour of greedy thieves causes massive inconvenience to rail passengers. Not only are they putting themselves in danger, they are forcing us to use slow and outdated methods of moving trains in order to protect passengers. 

"The delay caused by these crimes costs us all millions of pounds every year through missed appointments and delayed freight deliveries. This is unacceptable. We are protecting our network better than ever using security patrols, CCTV and forensic marking.  We will find the thieves and we will support the police in bringing them to court and seeking the toughest penalties."

Mr Verster added:

"I fully support calls to improve legislation governing the market in scrap metal.  We need to address outdated laws which allow unscrupulous dealers to profit from the misery and inconvenience of others, whilst protecting the legitimate businesses which operate in this area."

Despite record prices, cable thieves make little money, in relative terms, for the copper they steal.  Certainly they do not receive anything close to the true value from selling copper to scrap yards.

Northern Powergrid's Field Operations Director, Nick Gill, echoed Mr Verster's comments, he said:

"The frequent incidents of metal theft causes a huge amount of disruption and puts the lives of the public and our staff at risk for very little return for the mindless perpetrators.

"We work in close partnership with the police and local authorities to crack down on theft and to help secure successful prosecutions. This joint inspection is an excellent example of that collaboration."

Mr Gill added:

"We believe it is time to tighten the laws which currently allow stolen metal to be sold on without proper checking.

"We also seek the support of our customers by asking them to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity. Under the Crimestoppers scheme they can tell us anonymously about possible metal theft."

Luke Beeson, BT Security, general manager, added:

"Attacks on BT's network have risen by 12 per cent compared to 2010, costing BT millions of pounds and more importantly causing severe disruption to local communities and businesses.

"Stealing telecommunications cable requires some degree of organisation, planning, equipment and resources.  Offenders cover the whole spectrum of criminality from opportunist thieves stealing small amounts through to organised criminal gangs with access to more resources and equipment causing major widespread disruption to our customers.

"We take the security of our network very seriously and  use a range of security measures in the fight against cable theft, including SmartWater, the invisible paint that tags thieves, a partnership with Crimestoppers and a dedicated Metal Theft Task Force of forty people who work closely with local law enforcement after incidents to ensure those involved are caught and prevented from offending again."

Anyone with information about individuals engaged in metal theft or dealing in stolen metal is asked to contact North Yorkshire Police on 0845 60 60 247 or call Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111. If you see a crime in progress call 999.

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