METAL thieves have struck more than 4,000 times in the last 10 months – turning South Yorkshire into one of the county’s crime hotspots, police have revealed.
Officers dealt with 1,800 offences in Sheffield, 1,000 in Doncaster, 800 in Barnsley and 570 in Rotherham between April last year and this January.
Now Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield has claimed the city is the fourth worst place in the country for the number of metal thefts reported.
The MP is so concerned he has raised the issue in the House of Commons and called for greater powers for the police to tackle the problem.
He said: “The police know metal theft is a big issue, they’ve raised it with me, and they want extra powers to crack down on rogue metal dealers.
“I was pleased that MPs voted for a motion calling for the Government to urgently introduce a tough licensing scheme for scrap metal dealers.
“The motion also called for greater police powers to be able to close down unscrupulous scrap metal dealers, to search premises owned and operated by scrap metal dealers, to use CCTV to identify sellers of scrap metal and their vehicles and to grant powers for magistrates to add licence restrictions and prevent closed yards from reopening. ”
Chf Supt Bill Hotchkiss, responsible for tackling metal theft in South Yorkshire, said: “It still remains a problem for South Yorkshire and forces nationally, although we monitor the number offences reported and they peaked in September, when there were 541 reported compared to 281 last month – a 50 per cent reduction.”
He said police were working with scrap metal dealers, carrying out spot checks to look for those accepting stolen material.
Chf Supt Hotchkiss said: “We want this scrap metal to become too hot to handle by increasing the number of dealers who refuse to accept it – the more difficult it is to get rid of the less attractive offenders will find it and it will suppress the crime.”
He added: “I would say we have one of the highest concentrations in the country because of our industrial past and if you are a criminal and steal something you want to be carrying it for as short a time and distance as possible, so that’s why South Yorkshire has been hit by this crime,” he added.
“But we are pleased with the progress we are making and a system we set up here, where we grade scrap metal dealers as green, amber and red according to their compliance with the law has been picked up as best practice and is now being adopted by other police forces.”
n A plaque of honour has been stolen from Watsons Walk in Sheffield city centre. The plaque was erected in recognition of William Marsden who founded the country’s first free hospital – the Royal Free and Marsden in London.