SCRAP metal theft in Blackpool has plummeted over the past year, according to figures released by Blackpool Council.
Thefts in the area have fallen from 115 in July last year to a low of 14 this June.
Overall, there has been a drop of 75 per cent in the crime which has blighted schools, churches and homes.
Dominic Blackburn, the community safety and environmental enforcement officer at BSafe Blackpool, said at the height of the problem thieves were “taking the plaques off graves.”
He added: “We’ve had people going into unoccupied dwellings and ripping gas and water pipes out.”
There were 692 offences last year while metal thefts from April 2010 to April 2011 totalled £500,000.
Between April and June 2011, 296 metal thefts were recorded – compared to 73 offences during the same period this year.
But Mr Blackburn explained Operations Tornado and Pathway were launched to combat metal thefts by introducing harsher penalties for scrap dealers. He said dealers were pulled over by the police and if they had metal in their vans they could not account for, they were fined £300.
Coun Eddie Collett, cabinet member for crime and community safety, said: “Once we saw this as a rising problem, we worked quickly with the police, to prevent it from happening and to try and catch the people responsible.
“The reduction in metal thefts is down to a lot of hard work by officers, who should be applauded.”
The figures were revealed on the same day the Government unveiled plans to ban scrap metal dealers paying for metal with cash in hand, instead making them pay in bank transfers or via cheque.
But the legislation has been criticised by local scrap metal dealerships, who claim it will do little to address the issue.
Ross Thornton, 40, a director at Inglemere Metals, Blackpool, said he was unsure how the new legislation would lead to a drop in scrap metal theft.
He said: “At the end of the day, a thief has a bank account.”
During the spate of metal thefts last year Stanley Park was targeted by thieves who stole two statues from the park – leading to the two lion statues in Stanley Park being replaced with replicas.
Barry Shaw, president of Blackpool Civic Trust, said: “Cracking down on metal theft is a good thing, not just for Blackpool but for the whole country.”
Electricity North West has also launched a campaign against metal thieves. Lee Maxwell, Lancashire area manager for Electricity North West, said: “These thieves, who are breaking into our substations or stealing from overhead lines, are putting themselves in great danger and it causes thousands of pounds of damage.”