Partnership working in Somerset by police and the local council has halted a steep rise in metal thefts from schools, churches and community buildings.
Metal theft is now nationally recognised as an increasing problem as a result of high demand from developing countries such as China. There has been a dramatic increase in the value of scrap metal, particularly lead and copper with copper fetching up to £5,000 per ton and lead £1,300 per ton.
Metal thefts are traditionally classed as low impact crimes and standard police tactics had no impact on the sharply rising rate of thefts. As a result of concern expressed by community groups, Avon and Somerset police and Mendip District Council launched crime reduction campaigns to raise awareness of metal thefts to the community. These included presentations to Church wardens, crime reduction stands and press releases.
At the same time police checked suspicious vehicles which led to arrests and made test sales of metal to dealers. Information gathered at the test sales allowed the checks of vehicles and people to be refined. Finally the police and council negotiated an agreement with dealers which required them to get a
photo ID or thumb print of customers.
Monthly thefts of metal have been reduced from 100 to 4.