May 17 2012 by Matthew Gardner, Harrow Observer
THIS week, I want to share with you what we are doing to combat metal theft, which is on the rise across the UK. This may not seem to be an important issue for us in Brent, but it is. The borough has an extensive rail network and the theft of copper power cabling from the railways can cause massive disruption to trains.
These thefts can often prove fatal for the thieves, through electrocution or being hit by a train.
The theft of telecommunication cabling also causes massive disruption to homes and businesses, and the theft of lead from roofs of public buildings results in extensive repairs bills that need to be paid for from the public purse.
In Brent, we already regularly inspect our scrap metal dealers – with the help of the local authority – to ensure everything is above board.
We run covert automatic number plate recognition operations to stop and search cars and vans that are linked to metal theft.
We also screen every prisoner who comes into custody at Brent for SmartWater.
This is a unique invisible fluorescent forensic dye that can be applied to almost anything which might otherwise be unidentifiable.
Thieves who steal metal that has been marked with SmartWater become contaminated with it and light up like a Christmas tree when they come into custody and are illuminated by an ultraviolet lamp.
They are charged with the handling of the metal they thought was unidentifiable. For them, crime definitely does not pay.
In the last month, we have made arrests for thefts of beer kegs, gas cylinders, alloy wheels and cabling.
These arrests mostly arise from calls from the community when someone sees something that looks wrong.
It may be ‘workmen’ engaged on roadworks at night, people in a yard after the business has shut, or noise in a house under renovation at the weekend.
Two men were arrested last week and charged with theft of £3,000 worth of industrial batteries from roadworks and now they await trial.
All of your help means that, in Brent, we do well in relation to metal theft but a new tool has now been added to the police armoury.
On May 1, new legislation received royal assent which prohibited the purchase of scrap metal for cash by scrap metal dealers and imposed heavy fines for noncompliance.
This will ensure there will now be an audit trail for every sale of scrap metal in the UK and it makes it much harder for thieves to safely sell their ill-gotten gains – and easier for us to catch them.
If you see something that looks wrong or feels wrong, it probably is wrong. Please keep these calls coming. As ever, if you have any information on crime matters, we will act.
You can call us on Crimestoppers (0800 555 111), the UK-wide non-emergency number 101, or contact your local safer neighbourhood team via the Met Police website, www.met.police.co.uk.
In an emergency, call 999, and for daily updates and information about what is happening in Brent, you can follow us on Twitter at @MPSBrent. Thank you for your continued support.