Soaring metal theft from council housing 'compromising safety'
Published by 24publishing for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Legal
Council taking action after 50% rise in metal theft
Southwark Council is taking action to tackle a 50% rise in the theft of metal from electrical and fire safety items in its council housing.
The council's measures come as the Government discusses a new bill to regulate the scrap business - which, if passed, will mean that dealers will need formal licensing and sellers will need photo ID.
But the central London borough, which has experienced double the amount of incidents in 2012/12 over the previous year, is already working with the Metropolitan Police, which has a national operation targeting metal theft, taking fingerprints and DNA samples from crime scenes.
Suspects’ names have been checked with council contractors and the council has asked its contractors to be vigilant if they suspect metal thieves are operating on their patches.
Southwark has experienced the theft of copper piping from a brand new leisure centre, the removal of catalytic converters from mini-buses owned by charities and the electrical and fire safety equipment from council housing blocks.
As well as liaising with British Transport Police and other boroughs to collate intelligence, an interactive map of Southwark is currently being developed to log and monitor the locations where crimes take place across the borough to see if there is a pattern.
The map will also log the crime number of the incident, and will be fed back to the police as further intelligence. The police recently undertook a National Action Day, a joint operation which set up a road block on Ilderton Road, Southwark, to target scrap metal carriers which are not licensed and may have illegal goods.
Council wardens will be hand-delivering letters and offering advice to residents, asking them to keep an eye out and report anything suspicious. They will also be making checks on the affected items: lightning conductors, earth bars and dry risers that have previously been stolen.
Working with housing contractors, steps are being taken to favour designs for new work which prevents metal theft, with specific attention paid to materials used for handles, tamper-proof bolts for dry risers, closely monitored key-locks and alternative ways of securing wiring and other items being stolen.
Extra security has been put in place on the borough’s artwork and the use of Smart Water (a way of identifying culprits with an invisible ink) is being considered.
The council has been working with reputable scrap dealers, to report any unusual metals they are offered, especially those which resemble what has been stolen from the council.
Councillor Ian Wingfield, cabinet member for housing, said: “The thieves responsible for metal theft clearly do not care about the potential serious consequences of their actions but the council is monitoring the situation and checking that all electrical safety equipment is immediately replaced if stolen to maintain safety.
"The council is working with the police, and will seek the highest penalties to those found guilty of this irresponsible and expensive assault on council property. I would urge anyone with any information to come forward, and for residents to remain vigilant and report any tampered metal work they see."
Councillor Richard Livingstone, cabinet member for finance, resources and community safety, said: “Metal theft is not a victimless crime, the taxpayer foots the bill, and we should not have to keep public artwork under lock and key – the victims are our residents and any potential compromise on their safety or finances will not be tolerated."