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Tuesday 10 January 2012

Support for Action Against Metal Thieves


Continuing action to combat metal thefts in Cheshire has been welcomed by Cheshire Police Authority.

The chairman, Margaret Ollerenshaw said, "Stealing metal, including power cable and pipes carrying gas or water, sometimes results in danger, as well as inconvenience, to other people. It is an issue of real concern."

Cheshire Police officers carry out regular checks on scrap metal dealers, patrol vulnerable areas and encourage owners of industrial sites to step up their security.

They also work closely with British Transport Police, who investigate thefts of cable and other metal from railway property.

The two police forces exchange information about stolen items they discover at scrap yards and in other locations. During a day of action against metal theft earlier in December, Cheshire officers stopped vehicles which they knew where used by metal thieves and recovered some stolen property.

Peter Nurse, a member of Cheshire Police Authority, who raised the issue at a recent Authority meeting, said the joint approach was very important, especially as the theft of metal items from the railways sometimes created serious threats to public safety.

Cheshire′s Chief Constable, Dave Whatton said the danger resulting from this type of crime on the railways was matched by the theft of metal components in other locations.

"For instance, if someone steals a grid or manhole cover from the road there could be serious consequences for drivers who may not spot the hole in time to avoid it. Public safety is one of the reasons we take this type of crime very seriously indeed.

"Many of these thefts are equally dangerous for the criminals themselves. Stealing power cable obviously presents a hazard and pipes which carry gas or water under high pressure can also cause injury or death when they are interfered with."

Peter Nurse also wanted to know whether most of the thefts were opportunist crimes or the work of organised criminal gangs.

Chief Constable Dave Whatton said, "In many cases thieves see a metal item and believe they can make some easy money. The recent case when a man was sent to prison after stealing a metal plaque from the war memorial at Willaston was one example. Other spontaneous thefts are not as high profile, but the missing items can cause real issues for other people.

"At the other end of the scale we see criminals mount planned, military- style operations to steal large quantities of heavy-duty piping and miles of copper cable.

"Both types of crime can be extremely dangerous for the criminal. Stealing high voltage cable, for instance, can obviously result in death or serious injury for the thieves. On occasions, the theft may also disable vital safety devices on equipment or bring a production line to a standstill and put jobs in jeopardy.

"Since the price of metals rose steeply we have seen an increase in this type of crime across Britain. We will continue to make every effort to put that trend into reverse."

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