Scrapyards to feel heat over thefts

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POLICE are turning up the heat on scrap dealers to stop them profiting from metal thefts.

Lincolnshire is feeling the brunt of a crimewave that has seen 4,600 metal thefts so far this year, including 160 attacks on churches, thefts of copper cables and farm machinery – and even bikes and tools disappearing for a quick profit at the scrapyard.

Metal thefts account for 15 per cent of Lincolnshire’s overall crime rate.

Chief Insp Mark Housley, of Lincolnshire Police, said police are active on the crime prevention front but realise scrap dealers are the “choke point” – the ones fuelling the crime.

He said: “We are working heavily with the scrap metal dealers and they are all receiving intrusive visits from police and that’s to conduct an audit to make sure they are legitimate.

“Where they are not legitimate, we will be mounting operations against them – working with our partners – to make their life really unpleasant and make their business model unsustainable.”

Chief Insp Housley said the county force has worked alongside diocesan authorities to “target harden” vulnerable churches, urging them to install CCTV cameras, lights and cut back trees and shrubs that may make buildings hard to see from the road.

Officers are also encouraging the public to be far more vigilant and help police catch the professional crooks who steal copper cable, often wearing clothes and using equipment that make them appear like legitimate workmen.

He said: “We can’t taget harden all of the cables – there’s millions of miles of it.”

l Church leaders and energy industry bosses want the Government to force scrap yards to stop handing wads of cash to anyone who turns up with metal to sell.

They say payments should move to a “traceable” system.