Buildings, cables, car parts and war memorials are all at risk as metal thefts reach their highest level in seven years in Northamptonshire

Rising scrap metal prices are behind metal thefts which have hit a seven-year high in Northamptonshire.

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

Of the thefts last year, 69 were related to infrastructure, including the stripping of metals such as lead from building roofs, the taking of electrical or railway cables or the theft of vehicle parts.

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

The other 234 were not related to infrastructure, which could involve the theft of scrap metal or war memorials.

The Local Government Association says an increase in metal theft in England and Wales – caused in part by an increase in metal prices – is “extremely damaging and costly” for the businesses and individuals affected.

In England and Wales, 19,000 metal theft offenses were recorded last year. That’s 17,400 more than the previous year and the most since 2014-15.

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

Nesil Caliskan, Chairman of the LGA Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “Metal theft can affect a range of people and businesses and is extremely damaging and costly.

“Councils are targeting their resources as effectively as possible and doing what they can to help businesses comply with the requirements of the legislation – and can take enforcement action when problems are identified.”

She added that the LGA is calling on the government to update the Scrap Dealers Act and introduce an offense of advertising and receiving money for scrap metal to act as a deterrent.

The ONS said the 9% rise in the total number of offenses nationwide came after better recording of the theft of catalytic converters, which contain precious metals.

A spokesperson for the force said: ‘Catalytic converters are attractive to thieves because they contain high-value rare earth metals, and those involved are often part of organized crime groups.

“Most thefts happen in parking lots, but they can happen anywhere. Thieves can then sell these converters through junkyards, online, or ship them out of the country.

“Park your vehicle in a garage or secure compound if possible to deter thieves from stealing your converter. If this is not possible, park in a well-lit and highly visible area.

“You can also register your catalytic converter or mark it forensically so it’s harder for thieves to get rid of.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said: ‘We have funded the establishment of the National Infrastructure Crime Reduction Partnership, which provides national coordination of police and law enforcement partners to combat the metal theft, including vehicle theft and agriculture-related theft.

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

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