NOTTS County Council has welcomed a national metal theft taskforce following a £5million boost from the Treasury.
The multi-agency taskforce, led by British Transport Police, will target both metal thieves and scrap metal dealers who trade in stolen goods and fuel the demand.
It is hoped the taskforce will tackle the thieving of cast-iron gully grates. More than 700 were stolen earlier this year - costing the county council £275,000.
The majority of the thefts take place after dark or at weekends, but there have been instances where grates have been stolen during the day, in full view of passers-by, said a council spokesman.
Cabinet member for transport and highways councillor Richard Jackson said the problem was ‘huge’ at the moment.
“Metal theft is a huge problem at the moment, both locally and nationally, so anything that helps clamp down on it has to be a good thing,” he said.
“These gully grates are expensive to replace because, although the thieves mostly just take the grate and leave the frame behind, we have to buy the replacement as a complete unit.”
“This is money which could have been spent on other highways works.”
Anyone witnessing anything suspicious should phone Notts Police on 0300 300 9999 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.