Metal theft is not a 'victimless' crime

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Media captionThis explosion tore through six houses in Castleford, after someone tried to steal some power cable

Metal theft is not a victimless crime, the British Transport Police (BTP) has said on a day of national action to highlight the act.

The theft of copper, lead and other metals has risen dramatically over the past six months, a BTP spokesman said.

The BTP said many thieves believe only large corporations suffer but they want to get across that individuals and communities are also affected.

The number of deaths and injuries among thieves has also risen.

According to the Energy Networks Association (ENA) there have been more than 7,000 incidents in the past year leading to four fatalities and up to 31 injuries.

Earlier this month a 16-year-old boy was electrocuted during a suspected attempt to steal copper cable at a disused power station in Leeds.

Thousands affected

The ENA is working with the BTP to highlight the crime.

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Media captionDet Ch Insp Tony Bolton: "This is not just about little bits of scrap metal"

The BTP is also working with other police forces, agencies and industries across the country to develop ways of addressing the problem.

Deputy Chief Constable Paul Crowther, from the BTP, said: "Every single metal theft is an attack on either an individual or the wider community.

"When thieves steal lead from residential properties the householder suffers, when they steal from a school or church hundreds of people are potentially affected."

He added: "That number increases dramatically when criminals target cabling, particularly rail, power and communications, which deprive thousands of people of transport links and vital utilities."

Police forces across the country are also working with British Metal Recycling Association to educate scrap metal dealers who may not realise that some of the material they receive has been stolen.

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