A joint operation targeting those involved in metal thefts was carried out in Stockton Borough last month.
Officers from Cleveland and Durham Specialist Operations Unit stop-checked waste carrier vehicles across the Borough on Tuesday, 17 February.
The day-long operation, named Operation Spark, was organised by Stockton Council in partnership with Cleveland Police, HMRC’s fuel unit and Northern Powergrid, the company responsible for running the region’s electricity network, in an effort to track down waste carriers potentially involved in a spate of metal thefts in the area.
In recent months, thieves have attacked Northern Powergrid’s electricity network 20 times, causing power cuts for some 5,000 Stockton Borough residents. Around 5,000 metres of live high voltage copper cabling has been recklessly taken from the local power network costing Northern Powergrid £600,000 to replace and repair.
Under the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013, all scrap metal dealers are legally required to register with the local authority’s licensing service and display a valid waste carrier's license at all times.
Dealers are also required to record the value of the metal purchased, proof of the seller’s identity and address and keep records for three years.
Of the nine vehicles stopped, three were issued fixed rate penalty notices for failing to supply the relevant transport paperwork.
Two penalty notices were issued for defects affecting vehicle safety, while one driver was found without motor insurance and an expired provisional licence.
Police also issued a £300 fixed penalty notice to one vehicle which was 70 per cent overweight of a six tonne limit.
Councillor Steve Nelson, Stockton Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Community Safety, said: “We are committed to working with our partners to track down these thieves and prevent crime. The recent metal thefts are not only an inconvenience but affect local businesses and cost the local economy thousands of pounds.
“It is illegal for traders to buy, sell or transport scrap metal without a valid waste carrier licence. We are sending out a clear message to deter these culprits and encourage legitimate businesses to make sure they register with the Council and obtain a valid license to buy or sell scrap metal in the Borough.”
Sergeant Gary Hatton, from the Cleveland and Durham Specialist Operations Unit, said: “We are continuing to work with our partners to target those responsible for the theft of cables and scrap metal in the Stockton area. Over the past few months we have been doing a lot of proactive work, particularly in the Stockton area, to bring these incidents to a halt and to try to reduce the risk to members of the public and ensure that people remain safe.”
Nigel Walker, Vulnerable Assets Manager at Northern Powergrid, said: “Joint operations like this are a key part of the local action to tackle metal theft and catch the criminals who are disrupting our customers and damaging our electricity network. We’re replacing the damaged and stolen sections of copper cables with aluminium, which has little value to thieves, and we will continue our work with the Police, local partners and the community.
“Operation Spark sends out a clear message to metal thieves, who have no regard for the safety of local communities or themselves, that all the partners involved and the people of Stockton Borough have had enough. Together we are fighting back to help pull the plug on the criminals who are plaguing our communities.”
Julia Ryder from HM Revenue & Customs Road Fuel Testing Unit, added: “We will continue to work together with local councils and police forces to target people involved in this type of crime. Our main aim is to identify those people who are illegally using rebated fuel in road vehicles."
To report an unlicensed scrap metal dealer, contact Stockton Council’s Trading Standards and Licensing service on 01642 526558.
Anyone with information about metal thefts can call Cleveland Police’s non-emergency number 101, Northern Powergrid’s emergency 24-hour number 0800 66 88 77 or the charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111