Metal theft rising despite three years of decline on back of toughened laws

Suffolk police recorded 503 non-infrastructure related metal thefts in the two years to March 2018 -

Suffolk police recorded 503 non-infrastructure related metal thefts in the two years to March 2018 - more than the previous four years combined Picture: IAN BURT - Credit: IAN BURT

Declining levels of metal theft have been reversed by a two-year resurgence across Suffolk.

In 2017/18, crimes continued to rise on top of a 53% increase the previous year, despite consecutive falls following a law change.

The trend was mirrored across much of England last year, found the Office for National Statistics.

Total offences halved in three years across Suffolk after the 2013 Scrap Metal Dealers Act made it harder to sell stolen components.

Now, domestic metal theft of items like gates and fencing are higher than before regulations tightened, while infrastructure related thefts, such as railway and service cabling, remain far lower (by 73% despite rising last year).

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Rural crime team sergeant, Brian Calver said heightened security around commercial sites could be a reason for the increase in non-infrastructure theft.

“I can’t help but think increased security around infrastructure may have led to smaller amounts being taken from smaller dwellings,” he added.

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“We get a lot of reports of batteries being stolen from electric fences. Clearly, these are being disposed of somewhere.

“Without the market for it, demand goes down, so I think more could be done around enforcing legislation.

“No doubt, some of the proceeds go to organised crime, but it’s also carried out at a lower level by people making a living illegally.

“Sometimes it’s difficult to identify where stolen metal has come from, so we encourage everyone to make items identifiable.

“If you have valuable metal, store it securely. Alarm systems don’t have to be expensive.

“If you’re a plumber with off-cuts, make sure they’re stored where there isn’t easy access.

“If your property has lead flashing, mark it with SmartWater, but be aware it wears and will need to be reapplied.”

Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore said: “The increase is a worrying but I understand that the fluctuating value of scrap metal has a significant impact on this issue.

“I know the constabulary works with scrap metal dealers to ensure they are complying with the law, and our investment in local policing and automatic number plate recognition will help, but I’d also urge everyone to think about the security of their metal goods and keep them out of sight or mark them.”

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