A town which saw more than a tenth of all metal thefts from the electricity network in Yorkshire and the North East last year is being targeted by an organised crime group, it is feared.
Castleford has been described as a “hotspot” for metal thieves after 63 local incidents relating to Northern Powergrid’s electricity network took place in 2014. A total of 27,500 metres of cabling were stolen in the town.
Norton in Stockton-in-Tees also saw 20 incidents last year, meaning the two places together represent one in seven of the 566 metal thefts from the electricity network in Yorkshire, the North East or northern Lincolnshire.
The thefts meant 31,596 and 5,000 customer supplies were disrupted in Castleford and Norton respectively over the course of the year.
One high profile metal theft incident in 2013 left Rugby League side Castleford Tigers without power to their scoreboard, floodlights and executive boxes.
According to Northern Powergrid, the high rates in Castleford and Norton are “due to the activity of separate organised crime groups undertaking metal theft crime locally and who have repeatedly targeted electricity networks in the local communities”.
It said: “The criminals are either locally resident or who have travelled to this area but have links to the area, they appear to know the area well to avoid being caught during their acts of theft, and especially appear to have well established routes for disposal of stolen goods in both areas.
“Northern Powergrid believe the criminals are an organised crime group who have chosen purposely to target the respective areas.”
Charity Crimestoppers and Northern Powergrid have now joined forces to launch a campaign to highlight the disruption metal thieves can cause for residents and businesses.
Its aim is to highlight the impact of this crime, and through online channels such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, appeal for anonymous information from local people about the criminals who are targeting their community.
The campaign runs in a 25-mile radius of both places and aims to increase awareness in neighbouring towns and villages.
Crimestoppers says the activities of metal thieves also impact on local businesses. The Sutton Arms, a country pub-restaurant in Elton, Stockton-on-Tees, has experienced a number of power cuts caused by metal thieves, causing the landlord to have to turn customers away.
Alan Flegg said: “Metal thieves have cost us over £8,500. It is horrendous when the power goes off, I have to turn customers away and watch my pub empty. We have no lights and even the gas equipment won’t work without electricity, meaning we can’t prepare food for customers who are sat down waiting to eat.”
Dave Hunter, Crimestoppers Regional Manager, said: “Alongside Northern Powergrid we are determined to communicate the dangers and disruption caused by theft from the electricity network and help bring down the thieves responsible for these crimes.
“The mass disruption for all affected, be it businesses, communities or households, and the effect this is having on local industry, cannot continue.
“We need members of the public to shed some light on who is responsible for these crimes where they have any information, so that we can prevent you from being left in the dark. We don’t want to know who you are, we only want to know what you know.”
Anyone with information can call 0800 555 111 anonymously or visit www.crimestoppers-uk.org.