HUNDREDS of police officers raided scrapyards across South Yorkshire in the ongoing war against thieves and traders cashing in on stolen metal.
In the biggest police operation of its kind in the county, officers raided 10 premises in a series of co-ordinated strikes at 9am yesterday.
Three were in Sheffield, one in Rotherham, five in Barnsley, and one in Doncaster.
South Yorkshire Police said the aim was to identify businesses which buy stolen metal from thieves, fuelling an illegal industry.
Chief Superintendent Bill Hotchkiss, who oversaw the operation, said the raids were the culmination of months of planning.
He said the force is concentrating on scrapyards which have not yet signed up to a voluntary scheme, where yard owners agree to ask for official ID from anyone turning up to weigh-in metal.
The force was joined by representatives from British Telecom, Northern Power Grid and Yorkshire Water, who helped search premises looking for metal and cable belonging to their firms.
In one of the scrapyards a ‘granulator’ was found, which can be used to strip coated cable and turn it into smaller, unidentifiable, metal granules.
Officers also stopped people who were visiting scrapyards, to check on the material they wanted to weigh in.
Chief Supt Hotchiss said people convicted of handling stolen goods can face a maximum of 14 years behind bars.
And businesses found trading illegally could be closed down.
He said: “The full extent of the amount of material and assets recovered from the sites searched won’t be clear for some time.
“We have sent a strong message to rogue tradespeople and those suspected of creating a market for stolen metal.
“South Yorkshire Police is focused on disrupting criminal trade and removing the market for stolen metal - legitimate scrap metal dealers have nothing to fear.
“Metal theft is not a victimless crime. It causes interruption to the provision of utilities such as electricity, water, gas, telecommunications and rail transport and has a far reaching impact on communities.”
He said around 200 scrap metal dealers are operating across South Yorkshire - and 80 per cent haved signed up to the ID scheme.
Anyone with information about people involved in the metal theft industry should call South Yorkshire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.