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15 July 2010, 07:22 | Updated: 15 July 2010, 07:32
Police have been searching scrap yards in Kent during a day of action to cut the number of metal thefts in the county.
Officers were joined by the UK Border Agency and Trading Standards as the visited 27 premises and carried out road checks to stop and search vehicles carrying metal.
Thieves are taking metal from places like railway lines, churches, water and sewage works. electricity substations, hospitals and schools and then selling it on for cash.
Chief Superintendent Neil Jerome, Head of Partnership and Crime Reduction at Kent Police said: "This day of action is aimed at disrupting and deterring metal thieves and handlers. We are targeting thieves and scrap yards which is where the majority of stolen metal is being taken.
'Kent Police is determined to seek out the perpetrators and bring them before the courts. Metal thefts can be hugely disruptive, not only to businesses, but to our communities, who have their phones or power supplies disconnected because metal cabling has been stolen.
'Officers today have visited a number of premises across the county to increase awareness amongst traders, who are often the victims in this type of crime, and to stamp out illegal activity. Criminals should be aware that forensic marking has a 100 per cent conviction rate to date. The solution stays on skin and hair for weeks and cannot be removed."
Paul Crowther, Deputy Chief Constable of British Transport Police and national lead on metal theft for Association of Chief Police Officers said: "There is no doubt that metal theft is a huge problem for the UK.
"The conservative estimate is that it costs UK businesses around £770million each year - although it is difficult to put a true cost on the impact this crime has.
"Metal and cable theft affects all types of industry in a variety of different ways.
"On the railway we have seen significant delays and cancellations as a result of thieves cutting and taking signalling and power cables from the side of the track.
"There have also been incidents around the country in which homes, businesses and even hospitals have suffered power cuts and surges as a result of criminals stealing copper from power substations.
"The aim of the day of action is to send a clear message that metal and cable theft is unacceptable and police and industry are working together to address the problem.
"Key to this is the work we are doing with the British Metal Recycling Association, as the majority of metal thieves look to make money by selling their stolen metal on to scrap dealers.
"Often these dealers are unaware that the metal is stolen and can find themselves out of pocket when checks carried out by police result in the material being seized.
"It is imperative that we continue to work with the BMRA to educate scrap yards, stop them from unwittingly taking in stolen metal and, in turn, reduce the opportunities for thieves to make money."