Roadside crackdown to catch metal thieves


Natalie Barnett and Jim Green

METAL thieves and illegal motorists have been targeted in a major police-led operation near Ellesmere Port.

Cheshire Police joined forces with partner agencies to crack down on metal theft crime which is blighting businesses and communities.

Operation Taupe set out to combat the growing problem of metal theft and officers were also checking cars and vans for illegal red diesel and potential fly tipping waste.

The joint operation led by Cheshire Police involved HM Revenue and Customs, Cheshire West and Chester Council, the Vehicle Operator Services Agency, Scottish Power and Smartwater, British Transport Police, Network Rail, BT Openreach, and the Environment Agency.

Officers stopped dozens of drivers and searched vehicles with on-the-spot fines being handed to any offenders identified.

Inspector Keith Curbishley said: “This operation has formed part of ongoing efforts to disrupt and deter those involved in the theft of metal which causes significant disruption for businesses and homeowners.

“During this operation, police and partner agencies gathered vital intelligence that can help us disrupt the activity of these individuals involved in metal theft.

“The aim of the operation is quite simply to make our communities safer by targeting those who seek to harm or exploit it.”

Yesterday’s operation was based on the A56 between Ellesmere Port and Helsby and followed a similar crackdown 12 months ago. The operation was also geared to stop fly-tippers in their tracks through on-the-spot waste carrying licence checks.

Last year’s operation resulted in police seizing one vehicle for having no insurance, confiscating power tools believed to be stolen and fining motorists for having no MOT, using red diesel, waste carrying offences and vehicle offences including bald tyres, defective brakes and fuel leaks.

PC Adam Norton who co-ordinated the operation said the crackdown was part of the force’s commitment to detect and deter those using unsafe and illegal vehicles to steal and transport scrap metal.

He said soaring metal prices meant crimes of this type proved seemingly lucrative to criminals.

He said: “A key part of ongoing efforts to reduce this type of crime is to educate business and homeowners in ways to protect their buildings against metal theft.
“As lead and metal is generally accessible as it is on the exterior of a building, it is difficult to keep it secure.

“But simple steps can be taken to protect your property, such as installing security lighting and or CCTV, applying anti-vandal paint, and planting bushes and hedges with thorns which make it more difficult for thieves to gain access to flat roofs.

“We generally find that the most vulnerable premises are older public buildings such as schools and churches, or more modern buildings where lead flashing is applied for decorative effect.”

Anyone with information about metal theft should contact Cheshire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

l Metal recycling is a £5.6 billion UK industry and the UK is one of the largest scrap exporting countries in the world. Thefts costs businesses and individuals thousands of pounds each year.

Daily occurence

INCIDENTS of metal theft are reported on a daily basis in and around Chester, according to PC Adam Norton from the Rural Neighbourhood Policing Team, Cheshire.

Officers are pursuing intelligence relating to individuals in Chester and Ellesmere Port who are committing metal theft in rural areas.

“We have a list of targetable offenders who may be actively involved in metal theft.

The incidents can be quite varied and rural areas in particular are quite vulnerable to such thefts which can range from bits of scrap metal to residents waking up and finding  their garden gates have been taken. In one incident a brand new Transit van was taken and scrapped. There are two types of offenders, the amateur metal thieves and the professional thieves.

“As part our work we have fantastic support from communities who are vigilant and report suspicious incidents, and we would ask such communities to continue to assist us in the campaign to detect metal thieves.”

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