SPECIALIST teams of officers have been launched to hunt down metal thieves.
One of the units set up under cross-border campaign Operation Hansel is based in Peterlee and covers East Durham and Durham City.
It will investigate reported crimes, work to raise awareness and prevent thefts and carry out covert projects to catch offenders.
Leaflets are being handed out in areas where searches are carried out by the team to tell residents and businesses what has happened and urge them to report suspicious activity.
The six-strong squad includes CID officers, beat bobbies and PCSOs, and is led by Sergeant Tony Forster.
He said: “We’ve had lots of arrests so far, around 15 or 16, and we’ve done six warrants in relation to metal thefts from different places.
“We’re dealing with the detection, so finding out who has carried out the thefts, and also the prevention to stop property going missing.
“A lot of people are being affected by metal thefts.
“People are putting stuff out in the garden to clean and it’s gone, unoccupied houses are being burgled and these thieves aren’t trained plumbers.
“They’re just ripping out boilers and pipes and it’s a huge risk, houses have blown up.”