Metal theft crackdown

A NEW police operation is being credited with beginning to reverse an ‘astronomical’ rise in metal theft across Nottinghamshire.

The number of reported incidents fell by almost a quarter in September despite continuing rises in metal thefts throughout much of the rest of the country.

Police are attributing the development to Operation Metallica, a proactive approach by officers which was launched in July.

The trend for metal theft peaked at the beginning of the 2011/2012 financial year and is currently at a 47 per cent increase compared to the same time last year.

Det Sgt Rob Lloyd, who is heading the operation, said: “Metal theft is considered low-risk by criminals, but high-gain in profit.

“For the victim though it is a low-gain experience. While the thieves are counting the money they make, they leave their law-abiding neighbours counting the cost of repairs.

“And while some thieves appear to have the tools and skills to make cabling and piping safe before they steal it, often in great quantities, others are not so skilled.

“They risk their own lives and that of others by interfering with high voltages and gas.”

The Operation Metallica team has worked with Network Rail, BT, Western Power, Severn Trent, the Environment Agency, local councils and other agencies to launch the crackdown.

Recent progress includes several arrests. Kevin Royston Ratcliffe (47), of George Street, Mansfield Woodhouse, was charged with two counts of theft of metal after allegedly stealing copper gas piping from houses in the area.

He was bailed to appear before Mansfield magistrates on Monday.

Officers are also working on changing the laws around the buying and selling of scrap metal to put more responsibility on the seller.

“Currently, anyone can take copper and lead to a scrap metal dealer and be given cash without having to account for where it came from,” Det Sgt Lloyd said.