Updated: Thursday, 20th February 2020 @ 12:56pm

Thieves cost Salford taxpayers more than £130,000 replacing stolen heating systems and metal grates

Thieves cost Salford taxpayers more than £130,000 replacing stolen heating systems and metal grates

Exclusive by Oliver Pritchard

Thieves cost Salford taxpayers more than £130,000 replacing stolen heating systems and metal grates last year.

Information compiled by MM can reveal today that Salford City Council spent almost £81,000 replacing stolen heating systems in council properties and £50,000 replacing metal grates on highways last year.

And now Stephen Wolfe, UKIP candidate in the Manchester Police Commissioner elections, is calling for thieves who target war memorials to face compulsory custodial sentences.

Mr Wolfe said that sentences should be tougher for all metal thieves; especially those who target war memorials, which he claimed are seen as soft targets by criminals.

He told MM: “Magistrates should be given more of a free hand when dealing with metal thieves, the law constrains them too much. 

“I think anyone who vandalises a war memorial should face an automatic prison sentence.”

These findings come shortly after thieves vandalised a war memorial in Brentwood, Essex, just days before Remembrance Sunday.

To combat these crimes the government launched Operation Alloy earlier this year, a £5million government project aimed at targeting metal thieves.

Legislation currently going through parliament would ban cash payments for scrap metal and would significantly increase fines for offences under the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964.

Home Secretary Teresa May said: “People who deal in stolen metal are criminals pure and simple.

“Their activities are bringing misery to individuals and communities as well as damaging our economy.

“We're putting a stop to cash payments and we're imposing unlimited penalties on anyone who breaks the law.

“This government will do what it takes to protect the public, business and our national heritage from the scourge of metal theft.”

Earlier this year, a primary school in the area also became a target of metal thieves.

Lead was stolen from Irlam Primary School's roof multiple times in the summer and caused thousands of pounds worth of damage.

Deborah Keelan, school security coordinator for Salford City Council said: “Metal theft has a huge impact on teaching and learning. As well as causing damage to classrooms, equipment and pupil’s work, it often interrupts the delivery of the curriculum while we wait for repairs."

An alarm system had to be introduced which automatically detected when an intruder was on the roof.

There are around 1,000 metal thefts a week in the UK, costing £220million a year, with one of the biggest areas targeted being cables on train lines, delaying services by 117 hours a week.

Anyone with information about suspicious activity involving metal can call police on 0161 872 5050 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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