Police officers have been setting ‘traps’ in properties across Sheffield – in a bid to catch boiler thieves in the act.
Officers have set up cameras and alarms in flats and houses across the city where boilers and central heating systems are regularly stolen, in the hope of catching criminals.
They also hope the use of the traps will act as a deterrent to prolific criminals, who will not know which properties have cameras and alarms installed and tracking devices on the boilers.
Most weeks, empty Sheffield Council properties have boilers stripped from them.
Last year, more than 200 properties were targeted – costing housing chiefs £287,000.
And so far this year the council has not seen any reduction in the rate of offending.
Over recent days, boilers have been stolen from Ironside Close and Middle Hay Place, Gleadless Valley; Club Garden Walk and Mount Street, Sharrow; and Gervase Road, Low Edges.
Detective Inspector Richard Partridge, who is running the operation, said: “Those involved in this type of crime know how to get into the homes they are targeting, they know how to dismantle the boilers and they know where to take them – either for their scrap value or to people who are using them.
“Our response to this offending is Operation Kingbird, which involves a number of trap flats set up across the city where we have installed cameras and tracking devices and coated items with SmartWater to be able to link stolen items to specific addresses.
“If anyone enters one of these trap flats they will not know the equipment is there, but we will be alerted and will respond.”
He said the Health and Safety Executive will also be alerted if tradesmen are found to be installing the stolen boilers.
Mr Partridge said: ”There are safety implications whenever anyone removes a boiler under these circumstances, both for the offender and neighbouring properties.
“There are also safety implications if they are sold on and installed elsewhere.”
Janet Sharpe, council housing service interim director, said: “We are taking the problem of boiler theft seriously and have been working with the police and local communities, leading to two convictions since the start of the year. There are also an ongoing number of investigations taking place.
“We are continuing to work on our own initiatives, which include not fitting new boilers until new tenants move in.
“All new boilers are Sheffield Council-security marked, which makes the boilers much harder to sell on. Security marking has already resulted in a successful conviction since the start of the year.
“In hotspot areas, we fit security brackets above boilers and alarms which are directly linked to security contractors. We also use security screening and alarms to protect vulnerable empty properties.
“Tenants’ rent money that could be used to pay for services, pays to replace these boilers and we encourage everyone to report any suspicious activity to the police.”
Anyone with information about boiler thieves and those handling stolen goods is asked to call South Yorkshire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.