Brentwood: Metal thefts in Essex have dropped by 50 per cent

Metal thefts in Essex have been cut by more than 50 per cent in five months after a crackdown on the crime.

As part of Operation Tornado, officers have visited scrapyards, carried out roadside checks and district patrols since May.

The number of metal thefts dropped from 358 in May to 161 in September.

Last year the thefts included lead stolen from church roofs to metal catalytic converters in vehicles, and BT telephone cables to copper strip lightning conductors on National Grid pylons.

Officers said road signs and manhole covers were disappearing and signalling and power cables were taken from railway.

Now police are weekly stopping dozens of vehicles carrying scrap metal and are visiting scrapyards to check sales records and to stop and search the vehicles.

Chief Inspector Jason Scrivener, who is leading Operation Tornado in Essex, said: “Metal theft is a crime that affects thousands of people in many different ways. Churches, school and other public buildings have been closed as a result of theft from roofs, rail passengers have had journeys delayed, road signs have been taken, vehicles have been immobilised after catalytic converters were taken, whole towns have had their telephones cut off after BT cable was stolen.

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“It is a serious problem and has significant financial and social implications.

“The number of metal thefts has reduced significantly over the last six months, some of which is attributable to increased focus and engagement with dealerships but significant work is still needed to ensure that we create a hostile environment for those that choose to break the law.”

Also from December 3 new laws will mean it is an offence for scrap metal dealers to pay cash for scrap, and will have to pay by cheque or an electronic transfer.

Amongst those arrested for metal thefts was a man, 21, from Brentwood, on October 5, on suspicion of giving false information to yards. He was reported for summons for four offences.