Scrapyards closed in police raids across North East England

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Media captionAssistant Chief Constable Jim Campbell described metal theft as big business

More than 30 people have been arrested and a number of scrapyards closed down as part of a police operation targeting metal thefts across north-east England.

Officers from the Northumbria, Durham and Cleveland forces carried out coordinated raids early on Wednesday.

Scrapyards in Newcastle, Sunderland and Darlington were among those searched.

The raids followed a pledge by the forces to work closer to stem rising incidents of metal thefts from areas like railway lines and power stations.

A number of homes were also raided in the operation, which included officials from the Environment Agency, British Transport Police (BTP), Northern Grid and BT.

Northumbria's Assistant Chief Constable Jim Campbell said: "Metal thieves are causing significant disruption to our transport, communication and power infrastructures, affecting daily life in our communities and we will not tolerate it.

'Clear message'

"This is a multi million-pound industry which relies heavily on self regulation, but our evidence suggests that in the case of many dealers this is not working."

Ch Supt Dave Orford, of Durham Police, added: "Like other areas of the North East, communities in County Durham and Darlington have been suffering the effects of metal theft for some time.

"While we have previously carried out unannounced spot checks on dealers, today is the first time we have effectively closed yards for business.

"This should send a clear message to metal thieves and people who profit from dealing in stolen metal that their activities won't be tolerated."

BTP Deputy Chief Constable Paul Crowther, said: "Scrap metal dealers have a responsibility to ensure the metal they buy is from legitimate sources and that they keep appropriate records. It is not acceptable to turn a blind eye to stolen metal."

A total of 36 people are being questioned on suspicion of money laundering.

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