Buildings, cables, car parts and war memorials all at risk as metal thefts hit seven-year high in Northamptonshire

Officials call on government to beef up laws for scrap dealers to deter crooks

Rising scrap prices are behind metal thefts hitting a seven-year high in Northamptonshire.

Office for National Statistics data shows Northamptonshire Police recorded 303 metal thefts during 2020-21 — up from 238 the year before and the most since 2013-14, when there were 500.

Of the thefts last year, 69 were infrastructure-related which includes stripping metal such as roofing lead from buildings, taking electricity or railway cables, or stealing vehicle parts.

Catalytic converters contain precious metals and are a regular target for thieves in Northamptonshire

The remaining 234 were non-infrastructure related, which could involve stealing scrap metal or war memorial plaques.

The Local Government Association says a rise in metal theft across England and Wales – caused in part by an increase in metal prices – is 'extremely damaging and costly' for businesses and individuals affected.

Across England and Wales, 19,000 metal theft offences were recorded last year. That is 17,400 up from the year before and the most since 2014-15.

And the LGA is calling for changes to the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 which was brought in to crack down on the trade in stolen metal.

Nesil Caliskan, chair of the LGA's safer and stronger communities board, said: “Metal theft can affect a range of people and businesses and is extremely damaging and costly.

"Councils target their resources as efficiently as possible and do what they can to support businesses to meet the requirements of the legislation – and can take enforcement action where issues are identified."

She added the LGA is calling on the Government to update the Scrap Metal Dealers Act and introduce an offence of advertising for and receiving cash for scrap metal to act as a deterrent.

The ONS said the nine percent increase in overall offences nationally came after improved recording of the theft of catalytic converters, which contain precious metals.

Northamptonshire Police issued a warning last month following a spate of catalytic converter thefts from vehicles in villages around Wellingborough.

A spokesman for the force said: “Catalytic converters are attractive to thieves as they contain high-value rare earth metals, and those involved are often part of organised crime groups.

"Most thefts occur in car parks but they can happen anywhere. Thieves may then sell these converters via scrapyards, online, or ship them out of the country.

"Park your vehicle in a garage or in a secure compound if possible to deter thieves from stealing your convertor. If that is not possible, park in a well-lit and highly visible location.

"You could also register your catalytic convertor or forensically mark it so it is more difficult for thieves to dispose of."

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “We funded the set-up of the National Infrastructure Crime Reduction Partnership, which ensures national co-ordination of policing and law enforcement partners to tackle metal theft, including vehicle and agricultural-related theft.

“The partnership has provided training to law enforcement and other partner agencies, shares intelligence to target offenders, and implements crime prevention measures.”