POLICE have clamped down on metal thieves targeting affluent properties, playgrounds, pubs, churches and railways in Helsby.

On Thursday, last week, motorists driving along Chester Road, Helsby, were pulled off the highway as officers searched vans and cars for stolen metal, power tools and unsafe vehicles.

The operation held throughout the day at Helsby Community Sports Centre came after a spate of metal thefts across Frodsham, Helsby and Alvanley with travelling criminals removing valuable gates, lead and railings from across the village.

Officers from Cheshire Constabulary joined forces with Cheshire West and Chester Council, HM Revenue and Customs, VOSA (vehicle operator services agency), Scottish Power and Smartwater to search the vehicles before issuing fixed penalty notices to motorists.

Police have praised the operation as a success after issuing seven fixed penalty notices for offences including use of red diesel, carrying waste and failure to provide proof of a valid MOT.

One vehicle was seized after the driver failed to provide valid insurance, while power tools where confiscated by officers after they were suspected to be stolen.

Inspector Phil Hodgson said: “This operation has formed part of ongoing efforts to disrupt and deter those involved in the theft of metal which causes significant disruption for businesses and homeowners.

“During this operation police and partner agencies gathered vital intelligence that can help us to disrupt the activity of these individuals involved in metal theft.

“The aim of the operation was quite simply to make our communities safer targeting those who seek to harm or exploit them.”

At least 10 motorists were prosecuted for vehicle offences including bald tyres, defective brakes and fuel leaks.