DESPERATE thieves in Cookstown are stealing manhole covers, cow troughs, gates and even sign posts to take advantage of lucrative metal prices.
The incidents have seen crime rates in the category soar by 88 per cent in the last two years.
From July 2010 to July 2011 just nine metal thefts were reported to police in the Cookstown area, but in the last year that figure has jumped to 17.
In Moneymore £1500 of street cable was taken costing thousands of pounds worth of public money to repair the damage.
Police are now asking the public to help catch culprits and get the message across that metal theft is not victimless crimes.
“There is always going to be somebody affected by metal crimes,” said Inspector Hazel Moucka of Cookstown PSNI.
“Any properties being targeted by thieves belong to someone in the community whether its a personal or statutory body. The have targeted schools, cemeteries and churches which means that money has to be spent on repairs rather than education or the community.”
“In the Cookstown area we have seen the theft of scrap metal and tool boxes, electric street cabling. We had one incident in Moneymore a while back where £1500 of cable was taken and what else are they leaving behind? Is it live cabling or people without lights. The farming community are suffering as well with the theft of cattle troughs, cattle grids and gates. And obviously animals are going to suffer with those types of thefts,” explained the PSNI Inspector.
“We have also seen the theft of manhole covers and BT covers.”
Inspector Moucka has also issued advice to homeowners, landlords and those in the construction industry in the district, who may be a target for metal thieves.
She said: “In the last two years we have had 26 incidents of what we have classed as metal thefts, not a big number when you compare it to the 300 that has taken place across the district but it is still on the increase.
“You have the likes of vacant properties, where people maybe on holidays, and we have seen people going into houses and taking copper piping, radiators, copper tanks, which can leave a lot of destruction. We have also seen signposts taken, as well as lead from roofs.”
Inspector Moucka added: “Our advice for construction companies and contracted builders is to take proper precautions and have new build sites well secured and monitored. Lock away any machinery, plant and metal fittings and materials out of sight. This advice is very much relevant to any maintenance yards, small engineering yards and farms. “Landlords should check vacant properties regularly and where possible turn off the water supply and remove the tank until the property becomes occupied. Make regular checks of your rental property and ask a neighbour or someone living close by to check the doors and windows every so often.
“We are working to tackle the issue of metal thefts head on and provide reassurance to the public that steps are being taken to protect homes and other property.
“Further information about crime prevention can be obtained by your local Crime Prevention Officer if anyone needs that. We have put in proactive and reactive patrols to deal with the issue. For example if we see a spate of incidents in the area we will follow up on that.”
We encourage anyone who sees anything suspicious in their area to get in touch with us. It’s better us doing something and it not being anything than the other way around.”