RESIDENTS have been urged to become the eyes and ears in the battle against scrap metal gangs.
People in the Long Streets area of Sunderland’s East End say men looking over walls and climbing into yards in search of scrap are making their lives a misery and have taken beat officers to task over the problem.
But police say prosecutions are difficult without help to catch criminals in the act and are calling on people to do their “civic duty”.
Neighbourhood Sergeant Gary Dunning said: “Tackling metal theft is one of our priorities and we work closely with other agencies to target those suspected of being involved, including unlicensed scrap collectors.
“We rely on information we receive from our local communities and need the public’s help to help us to drive down metal theft even further.
“We always encourage people to report any suspicious activity to their local neighbourhood team.”
He added details, such as the registration numbers and descriptions of vehicles, would help inquiries.
Long Streets resident Eddy Moore said people felt their privacy was being invaded.
“If they catch them red-handed on top of the roofs of vans there is the Road Traffic Act and if they are lucky enough to catch them going over the walls, there is theft.
“People can’t leave anything in their back yards.”
He added people were reluctant to speak out and wanted to see CCTV and surveillance used. Tighter rules for scrap dealers were rolled out across the country in April after a trial run cut the number of metal thefts by half.
The Northumbria and Durham forces were the first to run the voluntary scheme, which asks yards to keep proof of identity from anyone they buy metal from.
Operation Tornado was due to run for six months, but three months in, other forces launched it, with British Transport Police, British Metals Recycling Association, Association of Chief Police Officers and the Home Office adding their support.
Information on thefts can be passed on to Northumbria Police via 101 ext 69191 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.