Police purge slashes scrap-metal thefts in north Kent

Image caption,
Scrap metal is big business for illicit traders

Police in north Kent are hailing their crackdown on metal thieves, which has led to a massive reduction in thefts of scrap material.

Offences have fallen from 66 in August to 17 in October, and there have been 56 arrests since the operation began in mid-September.

A dedicated team has been targeting potential thieves and dealers.

The area is also the base for a pioneering scheme requiring sellers to prove their identity.

Police are working with scrap yards to target people who "steal, deal and profit from stolen metal" in a business that has become lucrative to illicit traders in recent years.

North Kent is one of two areas where people selling metal now have to provide photo identification or fingerprints in addition to the information they are required to give by law.

As well as the arrests and reduction in thefts, 11 vehicles have been seized with a view to retaining some of them under the Proceeds of Crime Act to recover costs.

Sgt Tim Ryton, who is leading the operation, said: "We know when certain people are active and where and we can find them and arrest them.

"The message is getting out there that we are watching, and people will be caught by us.

"If people can't prove that the metal they have in their vehicle or that they are trying to sell isn't all above board, they will be arrested.

Catastrophic effects

"Metal theft is big business elsewhere in the country at the moment but the work we have done has meant that the number of metal thefts in north Kent has reduced."

Police point out that stealing scrap metal, such as manhole covers, lead from roofs and copper wire, is not a victimless crime.

"Metal stolen from certain places could have catastrophic knock-on effects, such as power cuts and even death, as people take huge risks to get at the metal they want to steal.

"Someone, somewhere suffers in some way, whether it be financial, or through inconvenience, such as a power cut."

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