‘Copper cops’ halt grate-grill thieves

TARGETED -- a man shows the kind of grate covers that have been stolen by thieves across the county

TARGETED -- a man shows the kind of grate covers that have been stolen by thieves across the county

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A SPECIALIST team of police officers, dubbed the ‘copper cops’, has hit the streets of the Dispatch district and the rest of Nottinghamshire to combat the theft of valuable metal.

Criminals have been targeting roadside grate-grills in Hucknall in order to cash them in for scrap.

Thieves have also taken lead from churches, track from railways, copper from vans and piping from disused buildings in a bid to make quick money.

The trend for metal thefts peaked at the start of the current financial year in April. Offences were up by 47%.

But since the launch of Operation Metallica, the trend is on the decline. The number of offences recorded across Nottinghamshire in September was 193, compared to 258 in August — a 25% reduction and a first fall since December 2010.

The drop is being attributed to Operation Metallica, which is led by Det Sgt Rob Lloyd. It was launched to research the problem and employ tactics to deter and disrupt metal thefts.

Det Sgt Lloyd said: “Metal theft is considered low-risk by criminals, but high-gain in profit. For the victim, though, it is a low-gain experience. While the thieves are counting the money they make, they leave their law-abiding neighbours counting the cost of repairs.

“While some thieves appear to have the tools and skills to make cabling and piping safe before they steal it, often in great quantities, others are not so skilled.

“They risk their own lives and that of others by interfering with high voltages and gas. One metal thief dies each month in the UK as a result of their illegal endeavours.”

The team is working with councils and other organisations to detect stolen metal and educate the more than 100 scrap-metal dealers in Nottinghamshire on how to keep correct records.

The force is working on changing the laws revolving around the buying and selling of scrap metal — to put more responsibility on the seller.

DS Lloyd said: “Currently, anyone can take copper and lead to a scrap metal dealer and be given cash without having to account for where it came from.”