Police net tightens on metal thieves

Temporary Sergeant Andy Sutherland.

Temporary Sergeant Andy Sutherland.

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TIGHTER rules for scrap dealers are being rolled out across the country after a trial run in the North East cut the number of metal thefts by half.

The Northumbria and Durham forces were the first to test-run the voluntary scheme, which asks yards to keep proof of identity from anyone they buy metal from.

The pilot was due to run for six months before its impact was assessed, but three months in, other forces have started to launch it.

The regulations and checks are run under the banner of Operation Tornado, which was launched with the support of the British Transport Police, British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA), Association of Chief Police Officers and the Home Office.

In addition to the scheme and other campaigns, new legislation is expected to be in place by the end of the year, which means yards would not pay for metals in cash and could also face unlimited financial penalties for breaking trading laws.

Acting Sergeant Andy Sutherland, of Durham and Cleveland’s specialist operations unit, oversees Operation Tornado along with Operation Hansel, Durham’s long-term campaign.

He said: “We have already seen that this has had an impact on crime in the North East, and that’s not just as a result of Operation Tornado – there have been other efforts as well.

“It is good to see it picked up by other forces. We’ve shown it can be best practice in terms of tackling this criminality.

“For us to have seen a 50 per cent drop in metal thefts at just the start of a six-month period is a result, because it’s a really significant issue in our force area.

“Our priority crime teams, neighbourhood policing teams and road policing teams are all part of Operation Tornado.”

Recent checks made at the region’s yards found only minor administrative issues, with the tour also giving officers the chance to carry out searches of metal collecting traders out on the roads.

As part of their work, police monitor the Chinese economy, which is the main market for metal as its industry continues to develop.

They have seen its trade slow in recent weeks, which could also help lead to a reduction in the sale of scrap as prices drop.

In August, Durham recorded 300-plus incidents of metal theft, with figures now falling to around 150 a month following Operation Tornado’s launch.

Twitter: @EchoEastDurham