Scrap metal thefts' massive rise in Lancashire

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Police spot check in Morecambe
Image caption,
Thieves have even stolen lead off a police station roof

Scrap metal thefts of copper have increased 10-fold in Lancashire and lead thefts have doubled in the past year, according to police figures.

In 2009 there were 728 lead thefts in the county and 84 copper thefts but this increased to 1,469 lead thefts and 813 copper in 2010.

Scrap metal thieves are being targeted in a crackdown by Lancashire Police.

According to the force, an increase in world prices for metals was creating a ready market for thieves.

Vehicles travelling to scrap metal yards are now facing spot checks and police are also checking for rogue scrap traders.

In recent months thieves have stolen from schools, churches, war memorials and graveyards.

Three weeks ago, criminals stole lead off the roof of Great Harwood police station, in Blackburn, while officers were on patrol.

"This is the best way of getting results - going out and about and stopping vehicles in the streets, " said Pc Sean Brady, of Morecambe Neighbourhood police team, after a recent operation at the White Lund Industrial Estate in Morecambe.

"We've had really good results stopping vehicles entering big scrap metal yards."

He added: "It's surprising how quickly the message gets round to people."

Andrew Garner, owner of White Lund Metals, said the rising prices for copper had been proving attractive to thieves.

"We have a rough idea who's stealing stuff - if they don't provide identification or a vehicle reg, they'll be turned away," he said.

Police are also trying to prevent the crimes by painting metals with a liquid that can be seen under ultra-violet light.

"This liquid has had an 85% deterrent rate and a 100% conviction rate," said PCSO Maria Featherstone, of Coppell Police.

"It is an enormous weapon in the fight against metal theft. The most fantastic tool we have to detect and deter.

"Since we started using this last October, it's brought down the number of metal thefts considerably."

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