HUNDREDS of police officers raided scrapyards across South Yorkshire in the ongoing war against thieves and traders cashing in on stolen metal.
In the biggest police operation of its kind in the county, officers raided premises in a series of co-ordinated strikes on Tuesday.
South Yorkshire Police said the aim was to identify businesses which buy stolen metal from thieves, fuelling an illegal industry.
Chief Superintendent Bill Hotchkiss, regional strategic metal theft coordinator for Yorkshire and the Humber, said the raids were the culmination of months of planning.
He said: “The full extent of the amount of material and assets recovered from the sites searched today won’t be clear for some time.”
“We have sent a strong message to rogue tradespeople and those suspected of creating a market for stolen metal.”
“South Yorkshire Police is focused on disrupting criminal trade and removing the market for stolen metal - legitimate scrap metal dealers have nothing to fear.”
“Metal theft is not a victimless crime, it causes interruption to the provision of utilities such as electricity, water, gas, telecommunications and rail transport and has a far-reaching impact on communities. “
“Those who steal cable are putting themselves in real danger. Railway lines are operational 24 hours a day and trespassing can prove fatal. Strong currents also pass through many cables and can seriously injure anyone who touches them. Those who steal cable are not only risking a prison sentence, they are risking their lives.”
Following the arrests of suspects, specialist search officers and colleagues from agencies including Rotherham Council, HMRC, BT, Northern Power Grid, the Environment Agency and Yorkshire Water searched every site identifying and recovering stolen metal and assets gained through criminal activity.
Community protection officers from Rotherham Council were looking to find whether there have been any offences in relation to the illegal disposal, transportation or movement of waste and fly tipping as well as the theft of metal from roads, council houses and buildings.
A council spokesman described the operation as a ‘significant day’ for Rotherham.
He said: “We work very closely with a variety of partners on an on-going basis to try and put a stop to this kind of crime, which results in huge costs and disruptions to individuals and organisations such as ourselves.”
“Today’s operation took it to a new level and allowed us to take a very close look at one particular business - an excellent way of working with our partners to ensure that those who do not work with us to combat this disgraceful crime are brought to book.”