Police launch operation to crackdown on metal thefts rise

A POLICE operation has been launched in Hertfordshire this week to tackle metal theft crime after a rise of more than 60 per cent.

Operation Devon will see Hertfordshire Constabulary work with partners in a new approach aimed to prevent future incidents, catch those responsible and build better relationships with scrap metal merchants.

Instances of metal thefts - which include telephone lines, transport networks, catalytic converters and lead from church roofs - increased by 64 per cent in the county when comparing July, August and September this year with the same time-frame in 2010, from 252 thefts to 393.

The activity will include Safer Neighbourhood officers visiting scrap metal merchants to look at ways of working more closely together along with partners including Trading Standards to ensure the merchants’ customer records are correct, for example.

Hertfordshire’s Operation Sentinel Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) Intercept Team, along with officers, will also be out in force to target those attempting to sell stolen metal and speak to drivers of unsafe vehicles.

DCI Liz Hanlon, who is leading the operation, 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 wires live wires exposed, so it’s something that the constabulary and our partners take very seriously.

“This new initiative aims firstly to target the thieves themselves and show them that 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, with our partners, will take action against them.”

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In a twin-track approach, Hertfordshire Police Authority is also campaigning for tougher sentences for convicted criminals, with chairman David Lloyd writing to Lord Leveson, chairman of the Sentencing Council, asking for a review.

One example saw a theft of battery packs - which provided a scrap metal value of more than �11,000 - result in a community order of 150 hours of unpaid work and compensation.

“It does not seem right to me that individuals and organised groups who cause significant disruption to individuals, businesses and communities end up with such light sentences as a result of sentencing guidelines not properly recognising the impact of the crimes,” said Mr Lloyd.

“Appropriate punishments should both act as a deterrent to criminals, and give confidence to the law-abiding majority that the whole criminal justice system is on their side. The police authority and the constabulary are determined that through working together we can reduce the occurrence of this malevolent crime.”

The police are keen for members of the public to report any suspicious activity to them by calling the non-emergency number 101, quoting ‘Operation Devon’.

For security advice to keep your home and garden secure visit www.herts.police.uk