A CRACKDOWN is due to begin on the sale of stolen metal on Wearside.
New measures to stop the valuable material being stolen from train lines and other locations have been announced.
Police officers say Operation Tornado will make it easier for officers to trace sellers of stolen metal through an identification scheme.
Metal thefts have long been a problem in Sunderland and across the North East. The Echo reported how a man was disturbed trying to steal the copper lightning conductor from Sunderland Minster.
Last month Network Rail staff had to work through the night to replace overhead equipment stolen from South Hylton Metro station.
Between January 1 and August 31 this year, Northumbria Police recorded 3,376 incidents of metal theft, of which 411 have been detected.
As part of the new scheme, starting on January 3, those selling scrap metal to dealers participating in the initiative in the area will have to provide proof of ID by either producing a photo card driving licence with an address, or a passport or national ID card supported with a utility bill, which must be under three months old.
The scheme is being trialled by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), the Home Office, British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA), British Transport Police (BTP), and Northumbria and Durham Police forces.
Acpo spokesperson Chief Inspector Robin Edwards said: “This will remain in place for six months initially with the option to extend the term of the trial as it progresses.
“The trial, which has been developed in partnership with the British Metals Recycling Association, is one of a number of measures that is currently being explored to restrict the sale and movement of stolen metal.”
Transport minister Norman Baker told MPs last week that new legislation might be required to deal with the “major problem” of cable theft on the railways.
Ian Hetherington, director general at the BMRA, said: “Metals theft is a real problem for the metals industry and BMRA continues to advise government on the issue.
“BMRA and our members are actively supporting Operation Tornado. The measures being trialled are sensible and provide the basis for a reform of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act – which we all want.
“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.
“This is an opportunity for the metals recycling industry to trial some of the strengthened measures being adopted coupled with what we hope will be robust police efforts to prevent legitimate business being diverted away from those applying the Operation Tornado measures and into the hands of non-compliant operators.”