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Metal theft taskforce launched

Scotland Yard is launching its first dedicated unit to tackle the growing problem of metal theft.

The Waste and Metal Theft Taskforce is to tackle the issue which is believed to cost the economy around £700 million a year.

The new unit is based in Bexley, south-east London, one of the boroughs most severely affected by metal theft due to its high number of scrap metal yards.

The team includes experts from BT and the local authority's environmental crime unit, and the taskforce will also advise other boroughs, particularly areas with high numbers of scrap metal yards.

The launch comes after police and the Government last week announced a crackdown to curb the country's metal theft crisis.

British Transport Police (BTP) is said to regard cable theft second only to terrorism in its list of priorities, and a newly formed cross-ministerial group has met several times to discuss the problem.

The launch last week coincided with the conclusion of Operation Ferrous - the Metropolitan Police's latest operation to tackle metal theft. In the first two weeks of December officers carried out 275 inspections and searches of scrap metal dealer yards, arrested 15 people for offences ranging from burglary to transporting waste metal illegally without a licence, and seized 16 vehicles.

Chief Superintendent David Chinchen, the Met's lead for Operation Ferrous, said: "Metal theft is not a victimless crime but is causing increasing misery to commuters and householders, and costing millions to the rail industry and local authorities.

"Our latest operation aimed to identify, disrupt and deter those involved in this illegal trade, and acted as an important intelligence-gathering exercise for future operations so that we can target those evading the law and those who supply them even more effectively. We are keen to work with legitimate scrap metal dealers, but those who aren't can expect to see regular enforcement."

Deputy Mayor of London Richard Barnes added: "Metal thieves cause huge economic damage and misery to individuals going about their daily lives and it's clear they will stop at nothing to make a quick buck. I am delighted to see the enormous strides Bexley has made with the launch of the taskforce and together with the efforts under the Met-wide Operation Ferrous, delivers a forceful message to those intent on carrying out such malicious theft and sabotage that it will not be tolerated."

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