Metal thefts slashed by half across the West Midlands
22 May 2012
METAL THEFTS across the West Midlands have halved since the start of the year thanks to a high profile operation tackling thieves and rogue scrap dealers.
Dedicated metal theft teams, targeted uniformed patrols, DNA property marking and tighter controls for Scrap Metal traders have all played their part in helping to reduce offences by 52 per cent compared to the same period last year.
Between 1 January and 30 March 2012 there were a total of 1062 metal thefts recorded across the West Midlands, compared to a total of 2222 offences over the same period in 2011. This is in contrast to a national report, released today, by the Association of British Insurers which suggests that around 1000 offences are being reported across the UK every week, a figure that has doubled over the past five years.
The reduction in offences comes as the force announces that a new team is being launched to specifically tackle metal theft across the whole of the Midlands region. The dedicated team, due to be launched in June, will co-ordinate the response to metal theft for the region, working with colleagues across West Midlands, West Mercia, Staffordshire and Warwickshire.
Superintendent Angie Whitaker, who has led Operation Steel since its relaunch in 2010, said: "Officers across the force have worked incredibly hard to tackle the ongoing issue of metal theft, and to see such successes is a testament to the dedication shown by West Midlands Police to reduce the number of victims of this type of crime.
"Metal theft can range from bits of lead taken from peoples' windows, through to large-scale organised criminality involving big business and the national infrastructure, such as railways, power supplies and phone cables. No matter which end of the spectrum it falls, there is always a victim who has to pay the price in replacing the items that have been stolen and dealing with the inconvenience such crimes have caused.
"The new team shows how seriously we take this kind of crime, and that the potential disruption metal theft can cause to the utilities and major transport networks across the whole country.
"We know that good work is being done to tackle metal theft, and now one team will drive that work across the central region, in conjunction with partner agencies, local authorities, and major industry."
Metal thefts across the Black Country have traditionally accounted for more than half of the region's overall total of offences, however the policing units covering Sandwell, Dudley, Wolverhampton and Walsall have also now recorded some of the greatest cuts in crime figures. In the first three months of 2012 a total of 582 offences were reported in the Black Country, which equates to a 56 per cent reduction in offences compared to the same time last year.
Supt Whitaker adds: "The Black Country is inextricably linked with industry, and the lions share of scrap metal dealers for the region are on the western side of our force.
"Consequently, police in these areas have targeted metal theft offenders, and those rogue dealers accepting scrap metal, for a longer period of time. These officers know who is committing these crimes and they have taken great strides to bring them before the courts.
"Sandwell was the first area in the country, to the best of our knowledge, which had its own dedicated metal theft team and they have seen some great results in catching thieves red handed, as well as educating firms, places of worship and other vulnerable sites in how best to prevent themselves from becoming a victim."
Sandwell was the area most affected by metal theft in early 2011, however recorded offences have fallen by 55.4 per cent since spring last year, with an average of 13 metal thefts being reported in the borough every week. Birmingham South and Walsall have shown the largest reduction in offending, with both seeing 66 per cent fewer offences since January 2012, compared with the same period of 2011.
Supt Whitaker adds: "It is almost impossible to completely eradicate this kind of crime in such an industrial area but we are making great progress in tackling those people committing repeat offences, from both the thief and the handlers' point of view.
"There are currently 381 identified Scrap Metal Dealers in the West Midlands area and we are working with the vast majority to ensure they are operating legally.
"We will continue to work regionally to tackle the issue and make sure that we see further reductions across the whole of the Midlands, with the launch of our new team.
"We always urge people with information or suspicions about criminal activity to contact us and pass on their concerns. That information could well prove key in identifying metal thieves and helping us to further reduce the number of victims of this kind of offence in the Midlands."
Anyone with information regarding metal theft is urged to speak to their local police team by dialling 101, or speak to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
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