MELTED evidence has failed to deter police from tackling metal theft.
A criminal cottage industry has developed in which thieves are taking wiring, copper pipes and boilers from derelict buildings, unoccupied houses, building sites and even power sub-stations.
They are known to burn rubber and plastic off wiring before taking the metal to scrapyards and demanding high prices for their stolen wares.
Proving the origin of melted down metal has so far been difficult, so police have turned their attention to related offences to stop the criminals in their tracks.
Sgt Anton Sullivan, of Chester Outer NPU, said: “We are targeting vehicles we believe may be involved in the theft of metal such as flat beds, vans and pick-up trucks.
“We will be proactively stopping those to make sure they’re licensed, insured and taxed and not being used to carry out offences. If not we’ll take the vehicle off them and prosecute for those offences on top of metal thefts.
“Around Saltney and Lache, we have noticed there’s been quite a lot of this burning.”
Sgt Sullivan insisted The Environment Agency will prosecute for offences under the Environment Act and Environmental Health at Chester City Council will look into smoke pollution and land contamination.
He added: “There is evidence people in Lache were doing this in their back gardens. Ultimately it’s a health hazard to the community with thick black smoke which is toxic.
“Also, Chester and District Housing Trust are monitoring situations were people could be breaching their tenancy by burning metal in their garden.”
Those found to be dealing in metal will have their details passed on to the Benefits Agency since they may be generating undeclared income.
Sgt Sullivan explained: “We are working with Chester and District Housing Trust and contacted estate agents and landlords to make sure their properties are secure.
“I want to make it abundantly clear to people it is something we are cracking down on.”
A tonne of copper, found in boilers, pipes and wiring, can make around £4,110 while the same weight in aluminium alloy sells for more than £1,300 and a tonne of lead returns nearly £1,000.
Police suspect rogue scrap metal dealers are accepting some of the materials.