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Surrey charity in team-up against metal thieves
3:20pm Tuesday 10th July 2012 in Local News
Crime-busting charity Surrey Crimestoppers is rallying support against metal thieves in the fight against one of the fastest rising crimes in the country.
The charity is teaming up with its colleagues across the South to tackle metal theft crime head-on in the region.
Theft of metal is now costing the UK economy an estimated £770 million each year.
Heavily influenced by commodity prices and the growing economies of both developing and developed countries, the thefts affect communities, industry and commerce, and pose a real and significant threat to public safety and critical national infrastructure.
In April, rail chiefs branded the impact cable thieves were having on passengers in the Life area “misery.”
An alliance between South West Trains and Network Rail revealed the cost and disruption to local rail-users that scrap metal thieves were inflicting across the network, including the Brighton to London main line, covering Redhill, Horley, Salfords, Gatwick, Merstham, Earlswood and Nutfield.
The rail chiefs said while the number of crimes had remained level, the costs of the cable thefts had more than doubled.
In the financial year ending last April, the Sussex rail network suffered three incidents, but they translated into disruption of more than 1,300 minutes to passengers, and £86,914 compensation paid out.
But for Network Rail's Wessex network, which on a secondary route covers Redhill, Reigate and Betchworth, in the same financial year, the number of crimes jumped by more than 50% on the previous year, with disruption to passengers of more than 18,000 minutes, translating into nearly £800,000 cost to the industry.
Addressing the broader picture, Surrey Crimestoppers called metal theft an international problem and said while metal prices stay high and global demand continues to rise, the crime is big business and is an issue that will not disappear on its own.
Surrey Crimestoppers is joining forces with colleagues in Kent, Hampshire and Isle of Wight, Sussex and Thames Valley to tackle the problem, and is urging the public to help nail the thieves.
Angela Hollinshead, county coordinator for Surrey Crimestoppers, said: “The summer holiday season will see many buildings, particularly schools and offices, left vulnerable to both the organized and opportunistic thief.”
She said: “Thieves are not invisible unless we choose to ignore them.
“Metal theft is the hot topic today. We read about incidents in the papers and many of us may well have felt the impact of metal theft on our day-to-day lives: train cancellations from cable and track theft, loss of phone and internet connection, school closures.
“However, awareness of metal theft is only part of the battle.”
She continued: “In order to stop criminals continuing to disrupt our lives we all need to be proactive, vigilant and to report our suspicions quickly.
“To this end Crimestoppers offers the public a safe and anonymous way to stop the thieves by contacting us on 0800 555 111, or using our secure online form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org”
But she added: “We can only be effective if you make that call.”
Last month, police forces in the South-east introduced a new scheme named Operation Tornado, making it easier to trace any person who sells metal to Scrap Metal Merchants, and helping to remove and prosecute dealers of stolen metal.
Detective Sergeant Rob Bryant from Surrey Police Intelligence Operations Hub, said: “As a Force, we are committed to reducing metal theft in Surrey.”
He said: “Operation Tornado aims to target unscrupulous dealers rather than inhibit legitimate businesses.
“However, we still need intelligence from the public to tackle this crime from all angles, and the Crimestoppers anonymous service provides a valuable tool to enable communities to provide information safely and free from fear.”
To pass on information about metal theft or any crime anonymously, Crimestoppers can be contacted online at www.crimestoppers-uk.org or by calling the 24/7 anonymous 0800 555 111 number.
Whichever form of communication is chosen, anonymity is guaranteed.
Crimestoppers is an independent charity which helps the police to solve crimes by operating its telephone number which people can ring to pass on information about crimes anonymously.
Around 22 people are arrested and charged every day as a result of information given to Crimestoppers, and since it began in 1988, it has received more than a million actionable calls, resulting in more than 115,000 arrests and charges, with more than £123 million worth of goods recovered and more than £232 million worth of drugs seized.