South East Wales

Metal thefts should 'outrage' public, says police chief

The public should be outraged that schools and community buildings are targeted by metal thieves, says the South Wales Police officer in charge of tackling the crime.

Supt Simon Clarke of South Wales Police said criminals were affecting the most vulnerable people.

On Thursday, part of the roof at Tonypandy Primary School in Rhondda was stolen, causing about £20,000 damage.

"I am so frustrated and angry," he told BBC Radio Wales.

"We are working so closely with members of the community, with councils, with members of the health service, utility companies and Church in Wales to try and secure premises.

"But clearly our message isn't getting across.

"What I would say is the people committing these crimes have no ethics or morals because they are affecting the most vulnerable members of our community."

Supt Clarke said preventative measures were taking place including increasing CCTV coverage and marking products.

But he added: "I think the key actually lies with the communities because some people know who are doing these offences and we just need them to come forward.

"People should be outraged that yet again schools have been targeted.

'Visibly upset'

"I saw and spoke to members of the community who were visibly upset that their schools have been damaged by the thoughtlessness and callousness of just a small minority.

"The financial return against a stolen piece of lead is minimal. The value of the lead or the tiles is very, very small. We know that through intelligence.

"Clearly, the physical damage is immense but it's far more than that. It's actually at the fabric of our community.

"Sometimes when a village or community centre gets damaged, sometimes there's not the money to re-open places and that begins to fragment the community.

"These people who are committing it, they really need to think about - they are making pounds or pence but the damage is immense."

Last year, figures obtained by BBC Wales suggested such thefts have cost Welsh local authorities almost £680,000, more than double the previous year.

Supt Clarke said the police were working with members of the community, councils, health services, utility companies and churches to try to secure premises.

But he added that scrap metal merchants needed to play their part.

"They cannot just say 'I didn't know'. They should be checking when they think something's a bit dodgy," he said.

"They need to think, because if they weren't prepared to buy the products off the thieves, there would be no market."

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