Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

The Team Tackling Tees Metal Thefts

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

The Team Tackling Tees Metal Thefts

Article excerpt

METAL theft reportedly cost the UK economy pounds 770m last year - and the trend shows no sign of letting up. NAOMI CORRIGAN reports on the methods being used by police to tackle the problem.

THE public are paying a huge price for the soaring cost of metal.

Electricity power lines, manhole covers, telecom cables and railway signalling wire are all being stolen on an almost routine basis.

Far from being a victimless crime, metal theft causes major disruption, a huge added burden for the taxpayer and can create a serious threat to life.

Cleveland Police are taking the matter seriously. Last month the force established Operation Hansel, a team dedicated to clamping down on metal theft.

Temporary Sergeant Darren Cawthorne leads the five officers from the Cleveland and Durham specialist unit. They are trained to assist the districts when metal theft becomes a particular concern.

Action includes monitoring vehicles transporting scrap metal as well as linking up with other forces and agencies to gather intelligence on suspects.

"We also carry out regular checks on the scrap metal dealers within the area to make sure they are complying with their legal obligations and are not dealing in metal which they know, or ought to know, has been stolen," he said.

Recently, police have noted a rise in taxi drivers being used to drop people off at scrapyards on Teesside with what are suspected to be stolen items.

Sgt Cawthorne said: "We are not looking to prosecute taxi drivers but, if they transport stolen goods, then they are guilty of handling stolen goods.

"It is also unlikely that they will be registered with the Environment Agency to carry such waste."

As well as businesses, homes and schools across the area, churches have also suffered extensively at the hands of the thieves, with thousands of pounds worth of lead being stripped from roofs.

The damage extends not just to the buildings themselves but the interior fixtures and fittings, as church congregations often don't discover the theft until rainwater pours into the building. …

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