THREE men have been arrested as part of a national crackdown on metal thieves.
Sunderland police stopped and searched 25 vehicles carrying metal and arrested three men aged 23, 35 and 37 on suspicion of theft on Friday.
Metal thieves have been targeted as part of a national day of action against the rising crime.
Organised by the Association of Chief Police Officers, forces across the country took time out to crack down on thieves who target metal and cables.
Assistant Chief Constable Jim Campbell, of Northumbria Police, said: “Along with other forces across the country, we have seen an increase in metal thefts and run regular operations to target those involved in this crime in any way.
“The majority of offences involve lead flashing, copper piping, boilers and appliances, while recently there has been a spate of incidents where thieves have targeted electricity sub-stations.”
“This can be extremely dangerous, and just this week we have had a suspected thief suffering life-threatening injuries after being seriously burned at a Newcastle sub-station.”
“But whatever the crime, the net result is the same – disruption to everyday life and severe cost to the local and national economy.”
Durham Police Chief Superintendent Dave Orford, the regional police lead on metal theft, added: “Metal theft in any form is a blight on society, and sadly has been having a greater and greater impact on communities in recent months.
“It currently accounts for 10 per cent of all recorded crime in the North East and a key part of our strategy is to choke off the market for stolen metal.
“We are talking to the Government about stricter controls and legislative changes that should make life much more difficult for thieves and unscrupulous dealers.”
On Friday, dedicated teams across Sunderland and Durham spent the day combating the increasing problem.
They targeted known offenders, carried out stop and searches on roads thieves are known to use to transport their hauls and carried out unannounced visits to scrap dealers.
Lord Henley, Home Office Minister for Crime Prevention and Antisocial Behaviour, said: “Metal theft is a serious and growing national problem that this government takes extremely seriously.
“That’s why we are working closely with the police, industry and other government departments on a range of initiatives. We want to make it harder for criminals to steal metal in the first place and we’re looking at whether we need to change the law.”
British Transport Police joined the campaign, and hit the tracks to put a stop to thieves who are risking their lives and others to get their hands on cables.