DNA swoop on scrap thieves

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SCRAP YARDS across the Fylde coast have been visited by police in a bid to crackdown on metal thieves.

Eight kilograms of bright copper was seized from a yard in Fleetwood – one of 24 sites visited in the operation carried out yesterday by British Transport Police.

Other yards in Marton and Blackpool were also visited.

It comes after thieves attempted to steal 300 yards of cable from next to railway tracks at Poulton on Monday.

This sparked widespread delays for Bank Holiday commuters as rail services were cancelled.

The metal, taken from the Fleetwood yard, and worth £50, will now be sent away for SmartWater analysis.

PC Dax Byrne-Turner, of North Western British Transport Police, said: “We go in and ask questions such as where the dealer buys and sells his metal, do they trade off shore and take their licence details.

“But the best way to identify stolen metal is by using a UV light to detect SmartWater coding.

“Every 200 yards of railway track is marked with a special DNA so we can potentially find out exactly where the copper was taken from.

“If the scrap dealer’s records are kept properly we should then be able to identify who brought it in.

“Today we found some 8kg of bright copper which looks like it could be marked with SmartWater.

“I think it is likely from a railway line and has been stripped down at some point. It isn’t a large amount but it may lead us on to other things.”

Twenty-five officers from British Transport Police, Greater Manchester Police and Lancashire Police took part in the patrols across the North West, which have been stepped up after an increase of copper thefts from railway lines.

In the past three months there have been 12 incidents of copper theft costing Network Rail £43,809 in compensation.

Leading the operation, Det Insp Andrea Raney said metal theft was now a police priority, second only to terrorism.

She said: “People think this is a victimless crime, it is not, these people are taking a train line down which is stopping people getting to work and costing Network Rail millions in compensation and repairs.

“These thieves are risking their lives stepping on the lines and cutting through live wires, there have been fatalities.

“Not only that but we need to get the message across that these crimes are not being looked at lightly – thieves can expect prison sentences.”