Cheshire Police are collaborating with forces across the Northwest to introduce new measures in combatting the increasing problem of metal theft.
Operation Tornado, spearheaded by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the British Transport Police, will aim to make it easier to trace sellers of stolen metal through an identification scheme.
From 9th May, anyone selling scrap metal to participating dealers in the region will be required to provide proof of their identity − either a photo card driving licence including an address, or a passport or national ID card supported by a utility bill, which must be under three months old and show their address.
Chief Inspector Darren Hebden from Cheshire Police said "The ongoing policing operation to combat metal theft has already met with success in Cheshire and led to a significant number of prosecutions. By having the co-operation of scrap dealers as part of Operation Tornado we are effectively disrupting and deterring those criminals who approach dealers with stolen metal to make a quick profit. We hope the introduction of these measures will restrict the sale and movement of stolen metal. It has been designed not to inhibit those dealers that operate lawfully, but to remove unscrupulous dealers who operate outside the law."
Ian Hetherington, director general at the British Metals Recycling Association, said: "Metals theft is a real problem for the metals industry and BMRA continues to advise government on the issue.
"It′s important to note that many of the problems encountered by legitimate metal recyclers lie with the ineffective enforcement of existing regulations and the proliferation of the illegal, unregulated trade, and not with the majority who operate highly regulated, licensed and permitted sites.
"BMRA also fully supports a nationally coordinated approach from the police and the Environment Agency with stronger sentencing and appropriate penalties for those stealing metal and those setting out to dispose of it."
Metal thieves have caused misery for countless thousands of people across the country and the railway has experienced significant issues for some time, but throughout 2011 criminals have been diversifying and targeting metal from other areas, including power cables, utilities pipe work, telecommunications cabling, residential properties, businesses and catalytic converters from vehicles. All affected industries are working together to tackle the problem, which is now a significant threat to the UK infrastructure.
Ten people have also died in the past year as a result of metal theft.
Whatever the crime, the net result is the same − disruption to everyday life and severe cost to the local and national economy.
Operation Tornado will run in all five north west police force areas, Cumbria, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire, with the measures rolled out across the region on Wednesday, 9 May.
This day will also see a co-ordinated day of action across all forces as police and partners seek to drive home the message that metal theft in any form will not be tolerated.