METAL thefts are plummeting as a result of a police crackdown on the illegal scrap trade.
Rates of metal crimes across the region have fallen from an average of 350 a month in late 2012 to just 60 a month at the end of last year thanks to Operation Steel.
The West Midlands Police initiative sees officers working alongside scrap dealers to find those selling stolen mental.
Police teams across the West Midlands have carried out spot inspections at scrap yards to check collectors were licensed and to look out for metal thieves’ favourite items – like lead stripped from properties or copper cable stolen from telecomms and transport operators.
Temporary Superintendent Phil Dolby, who leads Operation Steel, said: “Regular checks of vehicles and scrap sites, along with new legal powers, have helped us combat metal theft and deter thieves.
“Any scrap metal yards operating illegally or found to have taken stolen metal face being taken to court…and that’s helping really restrict the market for thieves and made metal theft less attractive.”
Metal thefts have seen community buildings including churches or mosques stripped of materials, while cable thefts have caused the internet to be cut off – causing millions of pounds of losses for some companies.
Temporary Supt Phil Dolby also said manhole cover thefts could lead to serious car accidents or injure pedestrians.
He added: “We want to support the industry which is largely very hard working and honourable.
“But if you are looking to exploit this industry through criminality there is zero tolerance and with our partners we will catch you.”