A MAJOR haul of stolen scrap metal was recovered across Doncaster yesterday as a police task force launched a crackdown on the illegal trade which costs the economy millions of pounds.
The operation produced 11 significant arrests linked to approximately £50,000 of suspected stolen goods.
Twenty scrapyards were visited, 235 vehicles stopped and searched and seven vehicles were seized.
Officer arrested a 46-year-old man from Thorne on suspicion of the theft of a van, £35,000 of suspected stolen metal and £15,000 of diesel after an offence in Norfolk.
A 20-year-old man from Hyde Park was detained on suspicion of burglary offences in Doncaster when £10,000 of cable was located, a van was searched and seized, and 25 reels of cable were found in the van. A further two men, aged 25 and 18, have been arrested on suspicion of burglary and handling stolen goods in the same incident.
A 29-year-old Doncaster woman was arrested for theft of £2,500 of copper from a house in Mexborough.
Doncaster activities also led to the arrest of three men from Worksop who have been linked to the theft of cable from an overhead power line on Doncaster Road, Tickhill.
Around 200 police officers spent yesterday searching scrap yards across South Yorkshire looking for stolen metal and reminding businesses of new laws now banning all cash transactions.
But bosses at Doncaster’s biggest scrapyard say they are ‘sceptical’ about the effectiveness of the new law, which came into effect yesterday
From this week, anybody wanting to weigh in scrap metal can no longer be paid ‘cash in hand, no questions asked’ and instead will have to be paid by cheque or electronically - in a move aimed at keeping a better audit trail on where metal is coming from.
Changes to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act has seen the upper limit of fines removed for scrap metal recyclers found breaking the law or breaching the conditions of their licences.
Metal thieves have plagued communities across Doncaster over recent years, with criminals stealing anything from power and phone cables to lead flashing, garden gates and drain covers.
Supt Tim Innes, the lead officer from South Yorkshire Police on metal theft, said: “This is one of the tools we now have for traceability of stolen metal. Using a cashless system will be a great asset to us to identify customers after we have traced suspect metal to a scrapyard.
“It’s important to remember theft of metal is not just about the financial loss to the owners, it’s also about the impact on communities who have their power or phones knocked out, and it is a dangerous crime because of the risk to people from such things as dangling power lines.
“I support any pressure which regulates the industry and we will be out checking all accredited scrap dealers in South Yorkshire today.
“This is a significant police operation, with 200 officers involved across the county along with the Environment Agency and HM Revenue and Customs, and we will also be seeking out the itinerant mobile scrap dealers.”
Supt Innes said metal theft had decreased by 30 per cent since the Tornado system of sellers providing photographic ID was introduced on a voluntary basis by scrapyards.
He said: “I would hope it would go down even further as a result of the new law.”
But Ian Wilkinson, a manager at C F Booth’s yards in Doncaster and Rotherham, said he was ‘sceptical’ about the effectiveness of the new law.
He said their firm was expecting as much as 70 per cent less business from people bringing in their own scrap metal to sell.
Mr Wilkinson said: “The customers coming in recently have been surprised and confused by the new legislation and the logic of it. Since we started insisting on photo ID metal theft in Doncaster has come down a lot and people are confused by how much can be gained. We’re sceptical as to how effective it will be.
“Criminals don’t bother what the law says. The fear we have is that this will create an underground black market, either abroad or by other means. If that happens the law will have failed.
“We are not aware of a black market in metal in Doncaster, but it’s a fear that might happen. We are looking to the police to rigorously enforce this law so that the criminals have nowhere to go.
“Theft rates have reduced, partly because the price of iron and steel has gone down, but if this law is not enforced it will increase.
“We followed all the voluntary recommendations and that seemed to be perfect.”