Police target metal thieves in Hertfordshire
PUBLISHED: 13:04 26 October 2011 | UPDATED: 21:12 27 October 2011
METAL theft is a crimewave that’s sweeping the county – with offences in the past year up by a whopping 64 per cent.
With a meteoric rise in the value of certain metals, criminal gangs are turning to railways, roads, vehicles and buildings to strip them of their valuable commodities.
But police in Hertfordshire are fighting back with the launch of Operation Devon.
The campaign began in earnest this week, with police officers starting to visit scrapyards across the county, in a bid to clamp down on the unscrupulous members of our society selling on stolen metal.
Police are hoping to catch in the act the thieves who steal cabling for telephone, power and railway lines, catalytic converters, manhole covers, lead from church roofs and any other metal they can get their hands on, such as bikes and even tools.
They will also be encouraging scrapyard owners to keep better records of their customers, cutting off what has previously been seen as a relatively risk-free outlet for criminals to dispose of their ill-gotten gains.
Also as part of the campaign, Hertfordshire Police Authority chairman David Lloyd has written to the Government’s justice chiefs urging them to beef up sentencing guidelines for those convicted of metal theft.
He said punishments like community service for such crimes did not act as a “sufficient deterrent” for criminals, nor did they reflect the risk and harm to victims.
Operation Devon is being led by detective chief inspector Liz Hanlon.
She said: “The theft of metal can have a huge impact on the local community.
“It can cause disruption to commuters, leave homes without power, destroy our precious heritage buildings and even risk lives by leaving live wires exposed, so it’s something we take very seriously.
“This new initiative aims firstly to target the thieves themselves and show them their attempts to sell on stolen metal won’t go undetected in Hertfordshire.
“Secondly, we want to build on our relationships with our legitimate scrap metal merchants, who work closely with us to ensure they operate within the law, as well as showing the more unscrupulous traders that if they flout the law and attempt to profit from crime we will take action against them.”
DCI Hanlon urged Times Territory folk to get involved in the campaign, by reporting anything suspicious they notice to police.
She said: “We’d much rather people called up to report their suspicion and it turn out to be nothing than keeping quiet and it resulting in a crime being committed and local information can help us greatly.”
“If anyone has anything they’d like to bring to our attention, contact us on 101 and quote Operation Devon.”
* For more coverage on the launch of Operation Devon, see the special feature in this week’s Welwyn Hatfield Times, out today (Wednesday).
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