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New way to beat scrap metal thieves
2:00am Monday 13th August 2012 in Echo News
POLICE are stepping up their battle with metal thieves, by getting scrapyards to sign up to tough measures to keep crooks away.
Police in Basildon are asking yards across the borough to adopt the new policy, dubbed Operation Tornado, which aims to keep thieves who steal metal away from the places where they can sell it quickly and make cash.
Under the crackdown, yards who agree to the policy must demand to see photographic identification from people who arrive offering metal for sale, as well as utility bills or another proof of address.
Scrapyards will then be given a poster to display outside their premises telling scrap sellers what they will need to show, and hopefully keeping thieves at bay. The system will also help yards keep an audit trail of who they buy from.
Currently, scrapyards don’t have to see any identification from people who are selling scrap. Sellers can even get away with giving false names so they can’t be traced if they are selling stolen goods.
A change in the law, forcing people to show identification and stopping cash payments for scrap, has yet to become legislation.
Sgt Paul Costin, who has long spearheaded operations in Basildon to stamp out metal theft, said: “At the moment it is very hard for police to make a criminal investigation into stolen metal, where a person has walked into a scrap metal yard. They haven’t got a vehicle they can be tied to, and they can give a fake name. If the yards demand people give identification, it provides us with an excellent opportunity to make it harder for those people trying to offload the proceeds of crime, by selling stolen scrap.”
Police said so far one of the three yards in Basildon has signed up to the agreement, and the other two have already indicated they will follow suit.
Operation Tornado is part of a national drive to help cut the number of metal thefts.
The theft of metal continues to be a problem across south Essex with buildings, including churches and homes, regularly being targeted by thieves stealing copper or lead roof tiles and piping. Thieves have even stolen underground cabling, wiping out phone networks, and overhead lines from the railway as the price of metal continues to soar.