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Police check 25 vans in Black Country scrap metal crackdown

Sandwell | News | Published:

A police crackdown on works vans weighed down with metal took place in the Black Country.

A total of 25 vans were stopped by officers to make sure they were operating within the law, with police also visiting 20 scrapyards across Walsall, Wolverhampton, Sandwell and Dudley.

The vans were stopped just off Bilston Road in Wolverhampton. Five drivers were issued with orders to undertake urgent repairs, one was given a fine and six were handed warning notices. Two vans were seized for no insurance. In addition to the stop checks, officers also visited 20 scrap metal yards as part of the ongoing battle against metal theft.

None were found to have been breaking new laws which prevent yards from trading scrap for cash and also requiring sellers to produce photo ID.

Sergeant Rebecca Barnsley, from Bilston police station, organised the operat- ion. It took place on Wednesday.

She said: "We are determined to make it as difficult as possible for rogue traders or thieves to get rid of stolen metals in the Midlands region and we will prosecute anyone found to be committing offences.

"For too long thieves have been able to steal what they like and sell it on for, sometimes, large amounts of cash.

"We regularly monitor yards across the West Midlands and ensure anyone trying to sell or accept stolen goods are subject to our investigations.

Police were joined by a number of other agencies during the day of action including BT, Virgin Media, Smartwater and British Transport Police.

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Calor Gas staff also attended and gave four scrap dealers advice on accepting their empty bottles.

A regional metal theft taskforce was launched in summer 2012 to tackle the crime. Along with West Midlands Police's Operation Steel and the national Operation Tornado, it has seen the number of metal thefts cut by more than half in 2012.

Metal theft has blighted the region in recent years with everything from homes, churches, schools, hospitals, transport links and war memorials targeted.

However new laws to tackle the thieves and rogue traders came into force in December.

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All cash transactions at metal recycling yards were banned and fines for dealers who failed to comply were increased.

Scrap merchants are also now expected to sign up to a photo identity scheme.

Figures show that throughout the West Midlands, Staffordshire and West Mercia police force areas, metal worth more than £34 million has been stolen over the past four years.

Metal theft across the region is now at its lowest level in two years.

Latest figures showed reports peaking last May with around 850 metal thefts a month, but in December there were 100.

It still equates to more than three a day, but the region's Police and Crime Commissioner Bob Jones paid tribute to officers' efforts to drive down a problem that had become the scourge of victims.

Mr Jones said the public and private sector had teamed up to tackle metal thieves, and that collaboration was now paying dividends.

Network Rail figures showed crooks struck 98 times on train lines in the region between April 2010 and August last year.

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