A Tees Valley-wide operation gets under way today in a bid to tackle unlicensed scrap metal collectors across the region.
Operation Haddock will see licensing, trading standards and civic enforcement staff from the five Tees Valley councils – Darlington, Stockton, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool and Redcar & Cleveland – join forces with Police from Cleveland and Durham Specialist Operations Unit, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Visits to various scrap metal sites in recent weeks has raised awareness, and notices were handed out reminding operators and collectors of their legal obligations. There has also been a social media campaign to highlight the issue among householders and those working in the industry.
The latest phase will see suspect vehicles stopped and the driver, vehicle and any materials it is carrying will be checked by the multi-agency team.
Drivers will also be asked to account for all scrap metal they are carrying and, where appropriate to produce their licence to collect scrap metal.
Any enforcement action necessary will be taken and visits to scrap metal sites will follow where specific intelligence indicates there is a problem.
Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Access, Communities and Community Safety, Councillor Steve Nelson, said: “Scrap metal theft is an issue we take seriously and that’s why we already work closely with the police, neighbouring local authorities, the Environment Agency and residents to crack down on it.
"This latest operation will support our joint efforts by highlighting the legal obligations that scrap metal dealers must meet – not just among dealers themselves but among residents too."
Chief Inspector Graham Milne, from Cleveland and Durham Specialist Operations Unit, said: “Metal theft is an issue for our communities, it affects individuals and businesses, so it’s great to see partner agencies coming together to tackle this problem that is having a negative impact on victims.
“There are a number of criminals who are still prepared to take risks to steal metal so by carrying out operations like this, we are tightening the net around those involved in this type of crime.
“We would encourage homeowners not to make things easy for thieves: don’t leave metal items like bikes or garden equipment insecure, keep an eye on any unoccupied property where you live and report anything suspicious.”
John Williams, DVSA vehicle enforcement manager North East, added: “DVSA’s priority is to protect everyone from unsafe drivers and vehicles.
“By working together and coordinating our information and intelligence we can crack down on more dangerous vehicles and the unscrupulous people who operate them.
“Operation Haddock will help make roads safer for everyone across the North East.”
The Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 places a requirement on all businesses involved in the buying and selling of scrap metal to be licensed by the local authority and includes both those who operate from sites and those who collect door to door.
Householders can check if a company has a licence through the Environment Agency Public Register or call 08708 506506.
If you are collecting scrap metal without a licence issued by the local authority area you collect it from you are committing an offence and can be prosecuted. You also need to ensure your vehicle is roadworthy. You can apply for a three year licence in Stockton-on-Tees at: www.stockton.gov.uk/community-safety/licensing/scrap-metal-dealers-licence
To check whether a trader is licensed or to report a suspected unlicensed scrap metal dealer, contact the Council’s Licensing service on 01642 526558 or email [email protected]