Lead thefts occur despite scheme

CALLS have been made for a campaign aimed at cutting scrap metal theft to be stepped up in Suffolk, after lead was stolen from five separate industrial properties in Hadleigh.

Operation Tornado, a joint initiative between police, British Transport Police, HMRC and the environment agency to reduce the sale and movement of stolen scrap metal, has already been introduced in several forces across the UK. Essex police joined the project at the beginning of June and a spokesman confirmed that out of the 50 scrap dealers officers had already visited, including in the Colchester and Tendring area, most had signed up for the scheme.

Dealers who are part of the initiative must ask for evidence of identity from anyone disposing of metal for cash payment, in the form of a UK driving licence or passport supported by a current utility bill. It is hoped this approach will reduce the number of outlets willing to take scrap metal without holding details of the sellers.

However, at a recent Hadleigh Town Council meeting, PC Matt Paisley of Babergh East Safer Neighbourhoods team said the intiative had been slower to get off the ground in Suffolk. He said five incidences of lead theft from properties on Lady Lane industrial estate had probably all occurred on the same night, and the business owners involved had now received advice on crime deduction measures such as installing CCTV cameras.

He added: “Nationally lead theft has been knocked down by trying to get scrap metal dealers to go cashless and improve the system for trading. Essex has been targetting this quite agressively and we have noticed a rise in metal thefts in Suffolk, as Essex introduced the (Opertaion Tornado) scheme, so it now seems to be coming across the border. We only have three scrap metal dealers in this part of Suffolk but the scheme is something the police here are keen to push.”

An Essex Police spokesmand said: “Metal theft can be anything from taking lead from a roof to stealing BT cables, manhole covers, catalytic converters and even road signs. In addition to Operation Tornado, we have had all sorts of high visibility operations in the north of the county, such as the stop and search of vehicles we suspect might be carrying scrap metal.

“Including all types of metal theft, the number of incidences across Essex has dropped from 282 in March to 204 in June. So far in July there have been only 186 reported metal thefts so there has been a marked drop - but it’s a bit early to say whether it can be attributed to Operation Tornado.”

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A spokesman for Suffolk Police said they were in the process of visiting dealers across the county as part of the operation, adding: “Metal theft is a fast rising crime and poses a significant threat to public safety and has a significant impact on communities.

“We will be checking participating yards regularly and those who are not participating will be the focus of enforcement work by police and partner agencies.”

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