How would you define the word ‘scrap’? I think most people would agree with the dictionary definition of scrap being ‘an old, discarded, or rejected item or substance for use in reprocessing or as raw material, as old metal that can be melted and reworked’. Sounds fairly sensible to me.
Unfortunately some criminals are far from sensible and also, it would appear, far from a dictionary. They have been known to stretch the definition of ‘scrap’ to include any of the following – copper piping out of houses, lead flashing from people’s roofs, drainpipe covers, fixed metal railings, parts from people’s cars and pretty much anything else of value they are able to liberate.
Part of the problem is that the price of metal has risen steeply over recent years and with it the temptation to remove any items of ‘scrap’ to make a quick profit. The issue has gained wide coverage in the news with the impact on the railway network so great that the British Transport Police consider metal thefts next to terrorism in terms of their priority. Metal thefts are a significant concern to West Midlands Police also and as such we have a wide range of initiatives in place to tackle the problem.
Our approach involves working closely with those vulnerable as targets for metal thefts and has a strong proactive element which involves targeting those responsible and regularly checking on scrap metal dealerships to ensure that they are complying with the regulations and not buying potentially stolen goods.
The awesomely titled ‘Operation Kryptonite’ forms part of this initiative and represents an ongoing focus on scrap dealers. It means that we are regularly pulling over scrap metal lorries and checking out their occupants and contents to ensure that they’re not hauling around stolen goods. If there is suspicion that the goods carried are not legitimate the occupants can then be arrested and efforts made to trace the origins of their bounty.
In addition to Kryptonite, we also have the less imaginatively titled ‘Operation Steel’ which runs along similar lines, disrupting metal thieves at every opportunity.
In addition we are working to ensure that it is much harder for criminals to access ‘scrap’ in the first place. This involves some military-sounding ‘target hardening’ with security being enforced at areas likely to attract the thieves and also identifying ways by which we can make metals more traceable. Network Rail, for example, now has much of its track side cabling encoded and protected by SmartWater technology meaning that if someone’s caught with their cables they’re caught red handed.
You can help too in the fight against the metal thieves by letting us know if you see anything suspicious that you think may be connected to metal thefts. Of particular interest to us is details of scrap dealers who seem a little too interested in that old car you have sitting on your drive or in the contents of your skip. Make a note of registrations, descriptions of the scrap dealers themselves and what’s making you suspicious and then give us a call. It’s fantastic information and really helpful in building up a picture of who’s poking around for metal.
Scrap metal theft is clearly unacceptable and affects everyone, whether directly as victims of crime or indirectly e.g. through trains being delayed owing to stolen cabling. By assisting us in the fight against it you will be helping us tilt the definition of ‘scrap’ back in our favour and ensure that the only thing scrapped is the criminal’s hopes of an easy profit.
As ever feedback is appreciated and the first person to post as a reply the correct name of the artist and song from this blog’s title will receive an approving nod from myself.