Vital public services such as telecommunications may be disrupted and construction work halted by organised criminals looking to cash in by stealing metal such as catalytic converters and other materials, police say.
Officers in North Yorkshire last week carried out a campaign to clamp down on the thefts. The theft of lead roofing from churches can also severely impact heritage sites.
Inspector Clive Turner, of North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Task Force, said that prices for scrap metal could rise after the Covid-19 pandemic, and that in turn criminals may attempt to cash in on this opportunity.
As a result, some forces across the country including North Yorkshire Police have rolled out a week of action with patrols and raising awareness among car owners, as catalytic converters – which contain rare metals – remain a prime target for thieves.
“Metal theft and waste crime is a focus for us in North Yorkshire, and this week of action was a good opportunity for us to work alongside partners to keep up the pressure on those responsible,” said Insp Turner.
“Following the Covid-19 pandemic, metal prices may start to rise, risking an increase in metal theft and associated crimes. Vital public services – such as transport, power and telecommunications – can be severely affected, and construction work can be interrupted and delayed, resulting in a significant knock-on economic impact. Similarly, the theft of catalytic
converters causes disruption and expense for vehicle owners.
“Heritage sites can also be targeted by metal thieves, including places of worship – and this may result in irreparable damage. I know the serious effect that metal theft and waste crime can have on communities, both in urban and rural areas – it’s something we treat seriously and will continue to deal with as a priority.”
Officers have been targeting vehicles seen transporting large amounts of scrap metal, with recent roadside patrols on the York ring road and Ripon bypass.
Rural Task Force officers also carried out patrols at more than 40 churches, particularly in remote areas, to check security and raise awareness of metal theft.
A spokeswoman for the Environment Agency said: “It’s our job to protect the environment and nature, so as part of this week-long campaign, environment officers joined forces with the
Joint Unit for Waste Crime to visit two scrap metal sites in the York area to carry out checks for environmental issues on site.
“We will continue to work together with other partners and agencies to target criminals who exploit the waste industry and harm the environment.”
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