Published: September 13, 2011
Updated: 25 arrests as police target metal thefts across Somerset

Criminals in the Burnham-On-Sea area who steal or handle stolen metal have been the target of police this week during a major operation to clamp down on the crime.

25 people have been arrested by police across the Somerset and Avon force area on Monday when police officers simultaneously entered and searched 50 scrap metal dealerships across the region.

Property suspected to have been stolen was seized including BT cable, copper pipes, transformers, manhole covers, metal gates and scaffolding towers.

The day of action came during the constabulary's ongoing 'Operation Relentless' campaign, which is aimed at targeting criminals who deal in stolen metal, handle stolen goods and the thieves that steal it.

Metal theft is increasing due to the global rise in metal prices. Currently, a ton of copper is worth over £5,000 and lead approximately £2,000, making metal a very attractive commodity to both opportunist thieves and organised crime groups.

Metal theft affects people at all levels from national companies and businesses, to local authorities, places of worship, community buildings and private homes - as has been seen in the Burnham-On-Sea in recent years.

St Andrew's Church in Burnham and St Mary's Church in Berrow have both been attacked - leaving thousands of pounds of damage to their roofs after strips of lead were stolen.

Inspector Ray Hulin, the force lead on metal theft, who is leading this week's operation, said: "Any legitimate scrap dealers we have visited today, who actively refuse to deal with stolen metal and who engage with local policing teams, have nothing to fear."

"We hope that our action today reassures the public of the importance that the Constabulary places upon the theft of metal."

"We will continue to use an intrusive approach in dealing with the thieves and handlers who are making a lot of money at the cost and inconvenience of everyone else. Every tax payer has to pick up the bill for this criminality in some form or another."

"It isn't just a financial impact that metal theft has on communities and individuals – it can also put people's lives at risk. Recently a BT cable was cut in Somerset resulting in the loss of phone and internet services to over 4000 homes and businesses; it also knocked out the Coastguard's emergency communications capability for 12 hours."

"I would urge people to contact police if you are approached by anyone in relation to scrap metal."

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