The Home Office and the Department for Transport have handed the National Metal Theft Taskforce a further £500,000 in funding, which will run to the end of September this year.
The latest funding brings the total of Government funding to £6m since the initiative was launched in 2012 and is intended to allow the taskforce to continue its programme of coordinated raids and searches across the UK.
In the most recent operation, 659 officers made 379 visits to scrap metal dealers across the country and searched 127, three of which were issued with closure notices under the Scrap Metal Dealers (SMD) Act 2013.
Seventy arrests were made, mainly connected to breaches of the SMD Act, although there were some related to theft and drugs.
The total number of arrests now made by the taskforce stands at more than 1,000 while 600 vehicles involved in crime have been seized.
Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker said that tighter regulations for the scrap metal industry and the work of the taskforce “has helped make it much more difficult for thieves and unscrupulous dealers to profit from crime”.
Transport Minister Baroness Kramer added: “For the last two years the taskforce has had a big impact in reducing the number of cables being stolen. Network Rail continues to report that the trend is in decline, with delays to passengers being at an all-time low.”
The funding came following a request from British Transport Police. In January the taskforce faced an uncertain future and only had enough funding to continue operating until March.
At the time, Norman Baker said: “The taskforce was set up as a temporary measure to bridge the gap until such time as the new licensing scheme was in place. It can’t go on indefinitely – the policing of scrap metal thefts has to become ‘business as usual’. And when that happens, the disbanding of the taskforce should have no negative impact on metal thefts and enforcement.”
However, the following day Lord Faulkner of Worcester asked a Lords Chamber meeting: “Wouldn’t it be extraordinarily short-sighted to cut off the funding of the taskforce at the end of March and shouldn’t we be building on that success and not jeopardising it?”