Lancashire Police have undertaken a week-long crackdown on scrap metal theft in the region, carrying out checks and talking to scrap metal dealers in a bid to reverse the trend.
In a move supported by Government agencies and the British Transport Police, Lancashire Police carried out roadside checks on vehicles carrying metals and visited scrap yards to remind dealers of their legal obligations to ensure a legitimate audit trail on the metal they were accepting and selling on.
Operation Starling comes in the wake of a staggering 50% increase in the number of scrap metal thefts being carried out by opportunistic thieves in Lancashire since last year. According to Police, there were 3,014 metal theft crimes in Lancashire between April 2010 and March 2011 – a 48.3% increase on the 1,558 incidents in the previous twelve months.
Among the metals stolen are lead flashing, copper boilers and piping and cables from local train lines. Commenting on behalf of the British Transport Police, Supt Eddie Wylie said:
“With scrap metal dealers’ support we can make it very difficult for metal thieves to operate as clearly they have to have an avenue to convert what they’ve stolen into cash.
“Good record keeping makes this very difficult and without this dealers can establish a perfect environment for criminals to sell on stolen goods, safe in the knowledge they will never be traced. Where dealers are found to be neglecting these responsibilities we will not hesitate to put them before the courts.”
Officers taking part in Operation Starling visited scrap yards and recycling plants in Fleetwood, Chorley, Padiham, Blackburn and Preston, where they visited Recycling Lives Red Scar plant.
The police looked around the site, assessing the processing methods of the different kinds of metals stored and on the premises and examining the accompanying data.
Joining the police on their visit to the site was a team from Granada Reports, ITV’s news team for the North West. Journalist Clare Fallon took a moment to interview Recycling Lives’ Director of Operations, Alasdair Jackson, to get his take on the recent increase in thefts. Alasdair commented:
“We’re pleased to have been given a clean bill of health by the officers involved in Operation Starling. Since becoming more aware of the issues that facilitate scrap metal theft over the years, we’ve put a number of systems in place to counteract the problem. We continually review these processes and work hard to ensure that we’re fully compliant with the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964.
“As much as anything, it’s a case of making it difficult for scrap metal thieves to make any money from the items they steal.
“We were once contacted by a man asking how much we’d pay for a gold-plated angel from the top of a church in Chorley. We told him we weren’t interested in that kind of scrap and, as far as I know, the angel’s still where it should be today!”