On the trail of metal raiders

Police and other agencies inspect one of the four scrap yards in the Calderdale area in relation to a day of action to target scrap metal thieves
Police and other agencies inspect one of the four scrap yards in the Calderdale area in relation to a day of action to target scrap metal thieves

MANHOLE covers, lead roof flashing, railway cables - none are safe from the metal thieves.

The rising price of metal has seen Calderdale and the rest of the country hit by an epidemic of gangs stealing from homes, businesses, hospitals, railways, schools and churches.

But police are warning that the crime not only costs the country millions of pounds, it also risks lives.

In July, a 16-year-old was killed in Leeds as he apparently tried to steal cabling at an electricity sub-station.

In other parts of the country, home owners have reported finding copper piping linking their metres to their boilers cut by thieves, leaving gas spewing out and endangering everyone on the street.

“Some people may think this is a victimless crime but it’s far from it,” said Inspector Mohammed Nawaz, who leads the Lower Valley neighbourhood policing team.

He and his officers saw an increase in metal theft during the summer, with manhole covers, lead flashing and cables being taken.

In one theft, nearly £1,000 worth of lead flashing was stolen from the Smith Art Gallery in Brighouse. They have been carrying out a series of operations to tackle the metal thieves, stepping up patrols and working with other organisations to visit scrap metal dealers in Calderdale to ask if they have been approached by anyone suspicious. They have also been stopping vehicles carrying scrap metal to check they are legitimate traders.

“We wanted to raise awareness with scrap dealers, with collectors and members of the public,” said Insp Nawaz.

Metal theft is estimated to cost the country £770 million a year.

On top of that, there is the huge disruption it can cause such as hours of delays to commuters when thieves target railways and to businesses and communities when their buildings are hit.

In July, more than 140 homes in Liversedge were left without power after a suspected metal theft.

And during the same month in Castleford there was a huge explosion just yards away from firefighters and residents caused by thieves tampering with an overhead electricity line as they tried to steal the copper conductor.

Inspector Nawaz say officers across the district are continuing work to clamp down on the thieves and the public can providing valuable information.

“We need members of the public to be our eyes and ears,” he said.

“If people have any information about metal theft, they should let us know.

“If they see anyone acting suspiciously, anyone going up people’s driveways, people dressed as workmen who are acting suspiciously, they can call us.”

Anyone with information about unlicensed dealers or metal thefts should call police on 0845 6060606.

People who think they may have information can also call CrimeStoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.