SPOT checks on scrap dealers and secondhand jewellery traders in Sheffield were carried out by police in a national day of action aimed at cracking down on metal theft.
Officers were looking for traders accepting without question stolen scrap metal from sellers - and failing to keep the paperwork they are obliged to keep by law.
They used specialist lamps to look for invisible forensically-coded property-marking substances, including SmartWater, which homeowners and businesses use to mark valuables.
Officers were on the lookout for lead flashing stolen from homes across the city and cable stolen from railways lines and telecommunications networks - a crime costing industries millions a year.
South Yorkshire Police organised the spot checks as part of Operation Maximise, the Association of Chief Police Officers’ response to the growing problem of thieves cashing in on the rising value of scrap metal.
Scrapyard owner Jim Richardson, from Handsworth, who has 25 years’ experience trading in scrap metal, said legitimate traders have nothing to fear from the police checks.
“The police know where the legitimate traders like myself are, so they can come at any time to have a look around. I don’t mind that - if you are doing nothing wrong there is nothing to worry about,” he said.
“And if you have taken a risk and done something illegal then it’s your own fault and you will have to bear the penalty.
“I don’t accept anything from people I don’t know - vans just pulling up loaded with metal - but it’s the idiots who will take anything that need to be stopped, the ones who don’t keep any records at all.”
The theft of metal is estimated to cost £770 million a year.
PC Simon Kirkham, who organised yesterday’s checks, said evidence of cable stripping was found at one Sheffield yard.
Officers pulled over vans and lorries they suspected of carrying scrap and two arrests were made for metal theft.
During a check on another vehicle a man was arrested after a knife was found.
Officers also seized two vehicles - one believed to have been used in crimes and another for having no insurance.
“Metal theft is a growing problem nationally and internationally - not only from infrastructure such as the railway but from commercial and residential properties too,” said PC Kirkham.
“Not only does it affect residents, who are having lead flashing and taps stolen from their homes and items from their gardens, but it also causes huge disruption when trains and telecommunications are affected.
“We have run these kinds of operations before and bona fide traders support us.”
Sergeant Nick Maddocks, who was also involved, said: “We want to get the message out that we will be carrying out these checks on a regular basis to make sure records are in order. If we recover anything that is stolen, prosecutions will follow.”
Scrap metal traders should, by law, record details of everything brought to them - who sold it, what vehicle they were in, what the metal weighed and how much money was paid out.