Alert as scrap is targeted for theft

PUBLISHED: 07:19 08 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:58 22 October 2010


Criminal gangs are targeting factories and council-run recycling centres to steal scrap metal worth thousands of pounds, the EDP has learned.

Criminal gangs are targeting factories and council-run recycling centres to steal scrap metal worth thousands of pounds, the EDP has learned.

Rising prices for metals such as copper and aluminium have caught the eye of thieves, keen to tap into an increasingly lucrative market.

An investigation by the EDP has found that between July and September last year there were more than 100 break-ins at county council-run recycling centres.

And Norfolk Police said last night that six firms have been hit in the past four weeks.

Det Insp Tony Deacon, of Norfolk Constabularies Force Intelligence Bureau, said the thefts were a regional problem and the thieves would often visit firms during the day on false pretexts to size up potential targets before striking in the early hours.

"We are talking about vanfuls," he said. "In one case £7,000 worth of copper shavings were taken. The organised criminal, rather than using a ram raid to get into an ATM, they're seeing an opportunity to make a lot of money doing this type of crime.

"The price of scrap metal has hoiked up. Copper and aluminium have gone up to a level where the criminals see that there is a market.

Officers are today set to consider the issue at the force's weekly tactical co-ordinating group meeting.

Det Insp Deacon urged firms to step up security.

"All companies with these types of metal on site need to be aware that the price has gone up, so they should review their security and if they see anything suspicious report it," he added.

County Hall records show that there were 110 thefts from its 18 recycling centres, including 40 at Strumpshaw and 35 at Mayton Wood.

But the latest figures show that break-ins plummeted after the authority secured a £100,000 grant from Defra to fit all of its recycling centres with CCTV.

Mark Allen, waste resource manager at Norfolk County Council, said stripped copper from washing machines and textiles were a particular favourite of thieves.

In some cases, recycling centre managers had even stayed on site over night in a bid to deter thefts.

"You have got to be very determined because they are all fence-protected and have CCTV and movement sensitive lighting," he said. "That indicates that it's someone who knows what they are doing.

"We've installed CCTV on the sites and hopefully that's had an impact. It was a problem last year, but hopefully won't be so much this year."

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