Forces forge ring of steel to tackle metal thieves
A CRIME-fighting "tornado" is being unleashed against the illegal scrap metal trade.
Spearheaded by the Association of Chief Police Officers, Operation Tornado is being launched across the region to combat the crime that costs the UK about £1 billion per year.
Thefts have risen as the global prices of metals such as copper and lead have gone up in recent years.
Tornado aims to make it easier to trace sellers of stolen metal through an identification scheme, constricting the market in which thieves can operate and making it more difficult to sell on stolen goods.
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In the South West, Avon and Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire Constabularies are working together.
Scrap metal yards have been asked to sign up to the scheme over the past six weeks and anyone going to one of those yards to sell metal will be asked for evidence of identity in the form of a passport, national ID card or driving licence, plus proof of address.
Avon and Somerset Superintendent Mark Saunders, the regional lead for the campaign, said: "The industry has responded very positively to Operation Tornado and the majority have already signed up to the scheme. It has not been designed to inhibit legitimate dealers but to target those who actively and knowingly trade in stolen material.
"However, should it prove necessary, we will use all the appropriate powers available to us to investigate and deal with businesses that we suspect are dealing in stolen metal, and will continue to take an intrusive approach in dealing with the thieves and handlers who make money at a cost to each and every tax payer."
He said in the North of England, where the campaign has already been running, reported metal thefts have fallen by as much as three-quarters in some areas.
Mr Saunders added: "We have been successfully working with scrap dealers for a number of years with an aim of decreasing the market in which thieves can operate both as a force and as a region and this is a natural progression.
"Because this is a national scheme, thieves are going to find it difficult to dispose of their stolen goods wherever they go."
Supporting the campaign, metal dealer Steve King, of R J King & Sons, in Pitway Lane, Farrington Gurney, said: "Our industry will go through some changes over the next couple of months and adjustments will need to be made, but I believe schemes like Operation Tornado benefits and protects the industry.
"By signing up to schemes such as this and working with the police we are less likely to end up with stolen materials on our sites, our public image improves and hopefully will give our industry and public customers more confidence in the way that we trade."
Police are also using covert tactics. To report a crime call 101, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.