Force tackles metal thefts

PUBLISHED: 15:03 25 October 2007 | UPDATED: 12:57 04 May 2010

A NATIONWIDE task force is being formed to tackle a huge increase in metal thefts in the East Cambridgeshire area. Churches, schools, surgeries and other public buildings are being hit by opportunistic thieves who steal the metal and then sell it on for s

A NATIONWIDE task force is being formed to tackle a huge increase in metal thefts in the East Cambridgeshire area.

Churches, schools, surgeries and other public buildings are being hit by opportunistic thieves who steal the metal and then sell it on for scrap.

Recent figures show that Cambridgeshire has seen the highest increase in metal thefts in the country. Police figures show a massive 170 per cent increase in the past 12 months.

The thefts have cost churches in the Diocese of Ely alone more than £1million in the last year.

In a one-month period between July and August, more than £500,000 damage was caused.

Detective Inspector Martin Brunning, who is the Cambridgeshire police representative on the task force, said: "Metal thefts are not going to go away. This task group will help us tap into what we can do to stop the thefts."

Meanwhile, business is booming for private security firms who are being called in to protect companies that store metal on their premises.

The Peterborough-based BusinessWatch Group has seen a 60 per cent increase in enquiries, several from firms in East Cambridgeshire, in the last three months.

Lead and copper are most commonly stolen and police believe the sharp rise in thefts is down to a demand in India and China, forcing prices up. Copper is said to be worth £4,000 a tonne - twice as much as two years ago.

Officers have been working with scrap metal dealers and partner agencies and say they are following up dozens of leads.

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