More than 200 council houses in Sheffield have been targeted by boiler thieves in less than a year – costing housing chiefs nearly £300,000.
Cash-strapped Sheffield Council has been forced to spend £287,000 on new boilers for properties targeted for their heating systems, which are sold for scrap.
Coun Harry Harpham, council cabinet member for homes said ‘unscrupulous’ thieves were ‘effectively stealing from their neighbours’ as tenants’ rent is used to replace the heating systems.
Gleadless Valley and Low Edges have been hit particularly hard by thieves.
In the last fortnight, homes on Spring View Close, Gleadless Valley and Ironside Walk, Low Edges, were raided for boilers, while another house on Ironside Walk had its plumbing system stolen.
Police are investigating.
Karam Rahman, 52, has been unable to live in his house on Bracken Road, Shiregreen, for two weeks after thieves broke in and stole his boiler – flooding his home.
Diana Turner, his sister, said they were disappointed at the time taken for a replacement boiler to be installed.
She said: “At this time of year when it is freezing it is unacceptable for people to be left to live in these conditions.”
A Sheffield Council spokesman said: “Mr Rahman reported a burglary and we immediately visited his property to put up temporary boardings to make his home secure.
“We made several attempts to contact Mr Rahman to fit new windows, doors and a boiler as soon as possible. We have arranged an appointment to fit a new boiler today.
Coun Harpham said: “This year, more than 200 boilers have been stolen from council houses.
“We are aware of the problem and have been taking our own initiatives to prevent this, as well as working closely with the police and communities, which has led to a number of arrests.
“We do not fit new boilers until new tenants move in and over the last 12 months we have introduced security marking.
“In hotspots we are fitting security brackets above boilers and alarms directly linked to security contractors. “We also use security screening and alarms to protect the most vulnerable empty properties.”
He added: “Everyone has a role to play in fighting back against these unscrupulous groups of people who are effectively stealing from their neighbours.
“I encourage everyone to be a good neighbour by keeping an eye out for the most vulnerable among us and reporting suspicious activity to the police.”
South Yorkshire Police are working with scrapyards to enforce new legislation making cash payments for scrap illegal.
Anyone who sells metal, including boilers, must provide proof of ID and can only receive payment electronically or by cheque.
Sellers must also keep records of where they obtained the items.
Chief Inspector Andy Kent, said: “We have been working with yards to introduce the cashless payments system. “Metal thefts are down by 22 per cent on last year, so it is already having an impact.
“The value of scrap metal is still relatively high because the demand for it is outstripping supply worldwide, so we will be enforcing this new legislation.
“We will be stopping vehicles carrying metal and checking books, as well as visiting yards to ensure there is an audit trail for all the metal passing through.”
Between April and December last year, there were 1,209 metal thefts reported in Sheffield, compared to 938 so far this year.