HIDDEN cameras are being set up in council houses in Sheffield to catch thieves who break in and steal boilers so they can sell them for scrap.
Police and Sheffield City Council officers are creating “trap houses” in council-owned properties in areas including Gleadless Valley, Hillsborough, Sharrow and Lowedges.
As part of Operation Kingbird, the homes will be fitted with covert cameras cameras and alarms, which will trigger a police response to any movement.
Trackers and SmartWater, a chemically coded liquid that makes items uniquely traceable, will also be fitted onto items, so they can be recovered if stolen.
It was reported last year that more than 200 council houses in Sheffield have been targeted by boiler thieves in less than 12 months. The city council has been forced to spend £287,000 on new boilers for properties targeted for their heating systems.
The value of scrap metal is still relatively high because the demand for it is outstripping supply worldwide.
Burglars are often thought to target properties and steal the boilers before new tenants have moved in, before selling them for scrap or to be fitted elsewhere.
Police say the number of thefts of boilers in Sheffield has not risen in the last 12 months but that it is still “a crime which causes particular damage to our communities”.
As well as catching thieves in the act, it is also hoped the new operation will act as a deterrent to criminals who have been targeting local properties.
Detective Inspector Richard Partridge of South Yorkshire Police, said Operation Kingbird was a “multi-agency response to the ongoing issue of boiler thefts in Sheffield” and was making “really positive strides”.
He said the burglaries mean “an additional cost to the public purse, due to the local authority having to pay for the replacement of these heating systems, but when a boiler is removed there are safety implications for both the thief and for people living in neighbouring properties”.
He added: “The fact is that those involved in this type of crime know how to get into the homes they are targeting, they know how to dismantle the boilers and they know where to take them.
“Operation Kingbird aims to catch them in the act and significantly reduce the number of boiler thefts in Sheffield.”
Janet Sharpe, council housing service interim director at Sheffield City Council, said: “We are taking the problem of boiler theft seriously and have been working with the police and local communities, leading to two convictions since the start of the year. There are also an ongoing number of investigations taking place.
“We are continuing to work on our own initiatives, which include not fitting new boilers until new tenants move in.
“All new boilers are Sheffield Council-security marked, which makes the boilers much harder to sell on. Security marking has already resulted in a successful conviction since the start of the year.
“In hotspot areas, we fit security brackets above boilers and alarms which are directly linked to security contractors. We also use security screening and alarms to protect vulnerable empty properties.”
Anyone with information about boiler thefts should call South Yorkshire Police on 101.