Ely Company Fighting Back Over Metal Thefts

AN Ely company is having to take expensive measures to protect itself from metal theft. Shearline, a manufacturing company based at Cambridgeshire Business Park on Angel Drove, was the target for two break-ins at the end of May. Thieves stole two large

AN Ely company is having to take expensive measures to protect itself from metal theft. Shearline, a manufacturing company based at Cambridgeshire Business Park on Angel Drove, was the target for two break-ins at the end of May.

Thieves stole two large skips containing scrap metal from the compound over the bank holiday weekend, leaving the company with a £9,400 bill.

Shearline finance director and company secretary Kevin Gouldthorp told the Ely Standard that the skips, which are worth £2,700 each when empty, could only have been moved by an eight tonne lorry.

The company is now on the verge of purchasing expensive baling equipment, which enable large blocks to be kept securely indoors.


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"A baler costs about £10,000, but it is probably worth it," said Mr Gouldthorp. "We've tried to secure the area, but last time the thieves just drove straight through trees and hedges to get to the scrap. They will get to it if they are determined enough."

Operation Saruman, Cambridgeshire police's high-profile crackdown on metal theft, was launched in September last year and has led to 70 arrests, although at the time of going to press a police spokeswoman was unable to confirm how many of those arrested had been prosecuted and charged.

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As part of the operation, manufacturing companies such as Shearline, scrap metal dealers and BT have joined forces with officers. Each dealer receives daily faxes or emails detailing metal stolen in the county, enabling them to recognise the hoard if a member of the public tries to sell it to them.

BT has part-funded posters to be put up at dealerships and in holding cells, warning potential thieves of the ongoing metal theft operation.

Cabling, particularly telephone cabling, has proved a popular target for metal thieves in the past and has left thousands of residents without access to communication networks, sometimes for days.

Only last week, 300 metres of cabling was uprooted on the Ely to Ipswich railway line, disrupting services for thousands of commuting passengers and cargo from Felixstowe port.

In a separate incident in January, 500 metres of phone cable was stolen from the villages of Great Gidding and Alconbury Weston in Huntingdonshire, leaving engineers working furiously through the night to restore connections. Eight incidents of large-scale cable theft have been recorded in Huntingdonshire since October last year.

However, no task is too small for some thieves, who have even stripped small amounts of lead from window frames, drain covers and farm equipment left in fields overnight.

From July to October last year there were 657 recorded metal thefts in the county - more than double the number for the same period in 2006, which was 321.

A major cause of the thefts is believed to be an increase in demand for raw materials in the Far East which has driven up the value of scrap metal.

The problem of metal theft is not confined to Cambridgeshire - the Association of Chief Police Officers were moved to hold their first ever conference on metal theft in March, bringing together law enforcement agencies, representatives of the metal recycling industry, utilities and government to thrash out a way forward.

* Number of people arrested in Cambridgeshire in connection with metal theft 70

* Estimated cost of metal theft in Cambridgeshire (per month) £500,000

* Cost of metal theft to UK industry £360 million

* UK metal recycling industry annual turnover £3.5billion

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