Officers from Lancashire’s neighbouring police forces joined together to target criminals travelling in to the county to sell or steal scrap metal - one of the fastest growing crimes in the country.
Lancashire Constabulary officers worked with those from Cumbria, North Yorkshire and British Transport Police to carry out stop checks on vehicles on the A6 Carnforth and the White Lund industrial estate in Morecambe on Tuesday. A visit was also made to a scrap metal merchant to check the items being brought in by prospective sellers.
Seven vehicles stopped by officers were given prohibition notices for being unroadworthy. Once a prohibition notice has been placed on a vehicle, the driver must repair the defect or submit the vehicle for a full MOT before it can be removed. The vehicle should not be used until this has been done.
Five people are also now subject to investigation by the Department for Work and Pensions in relation to benefit issues.
“The theft of metals is a nation-wide problem," says Inspector Dave Vickers of Lancashire Constabulary. "Thefts can range from waste metal taken from skips to lead stripped from school roofs, or even parts stolen from cars."
Reporting on thefts in Wiltshire earlier this month, the BBC noted metal theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the UK. Most commonly, lead, copper pipes and cables are stolen.
The British Metals Recycling Association is working with authorities such as the Association of Chief Police Officers and the British Transport Police to halt the problem of metal being stolen from its members' sites and to identify stolen materials.
“It has become apparent that some criminals are coming into the county to steal scrap metal, or are bringing stolen scrap metal from their own counties into Lancashire in an attempt to try and sell it on without being noticed,” says Inspector Vickers.
“We hold regular operations targeting this kind of criminal activity," he added, "but this most recent operation has shown the benefit of working with neighbouring police forces to share knowledge, intelligence and expertise.”
“The operation was really successful in gathering intelligence of potential offenders," notes Detective Chief Inspector Mike Forrester of Cumbria Police. "Metal theft can be a profitable business and we want communities to be confident that we are doing all we can to target these criminals."
Earlier this year, Channel 4 reported that most of the stolen scrap metal in UK eventually finds its way to the Far East and its value has increased sharply over the last decade.
“Theft of common metals such as copper piping can cause a real disruption for vital everyday services such as water, gas and electricity," Inspector Forrester points out, "and can have a negative impact on local people, so we hope that members of the public will support us and come forward to report suspicious vehicles or individuals.”
• Information about scrap metal thefts can be given to Lancashire Constabulary on 0845 1 25 35 45, or to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. In an emergency always dial 999.