Police launch crackdown on metal theft in Lancashire

Morecambe Winter Gardens
Image caption The Winter Gardens theatre in Morecambe has had lead stolen from the roof

Metal thieves are to be targeted by police in Lancashire after more than £1m worth of materials were stolen in the first six months of the year.

On Friday Operation Starling will see officers visiting scrapyards and carrying out roadside stop-checks of vehicles believed to be carrying metal.

Lead flashing, copper boilers, piping and cables from train lines are among the materials targeted.

Supt Jon Puttock said thieves often put their lives at risk to get the metal.

He added: "Cable thieves do not make huge amounts of money from the metal they are able to steal.

'Risking life and limb'

"Offenders may think they will get good money for stolen metal because of the increased price of copper, but the truth is that unscrupulous scrap metal dealers will not pass on that increase to the thieves.

"Not only that but stealing metal can be dangerous with thieves risking life and limb to steal pipes and cables."

Between January and October, there were 3,554 metal theft crimes in Lancashire - up from the 1,875 crimes reported in the same period the previous year.

Among the buildings badly damaged by metal theft were St John's Church in Accrington and the Winter Gardens in Morecambe.

The church, on Addison Street, is facing a £12,000 repair bill after it was targeted by lead thieves on nine occasions in the past three months, and the Grade II-listed Winter Gardens had lead stolen from the roof causing estimated damage worth £10,000.

Supt Puttock added: "We will continue to pursue those believed to be involved in the theft of cable and scrap metal and bring them to justice.

"The public has a key role to play to keep their property safe from lead and metal theft and I urge people to take additional precautions such as storing wheelbarrows, bins and ladders securely; considering the use of anti-vandal paint; regularly checking their roofs and installing security lighting.

"Anything suspicious should be reported to the police."

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