‘Pipe tag’ bid to beat metal theft

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Houses in West Yorkshire are having pipes and central heating systems marked with a high-tech forensic tag in a bid to tackle a metal theft epidemic costing the region millions every year.

Thieves trying to ‘harvest’ metal from marked houses will be branded with an invisible code which can only be seen under ultra-violet light.

Police hope the scheme will help bring down the soaring cost of metal thefts which, as reported in the YEP, has also seen storm drains, railways and even graveyards targeted by criminals attempting to cash in on the high price of scrap.

The scheme was launched in Knottingley, near Pontefract this week, with funding coming from Wakefield and District Housing (WDH).

And police say they are now hoping to attract cash from partners in other parts of West Yorkshire. Metal pipework and central heating installations were marked with the indelible Smartwater, which officers check for when they make arrests.

Sergeant Dan Tillett, of Pontefract and Knottingley NPT, said: “We are working hard to prevent metal theft and cut off the networks that help thieves get rid of their ill-gotten gains.”

Recent figures have estimated that metal theft costs the UK more then £770m every year.

Local councils have spent more than £2m on repairs and replacements in the last five years and churches in Yorkshire have been said to have made insurance claims totalling £6m. And just last year metal thieves sparked a huge explosion which caused massive damage to six houses in Castleford.

Paul England, Wakefield assistant district manager at West Yorkshire Fire Service, said: “Metal theft is a serious problem for us as a fire and rescue service as it can cause a great deal of damage to property and even risk lives.

“You only have to look back at the huge explosion in Castleford last summer in which homes were destroyed following a gas leak which was caused by metal theft.”

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