Edinburgh leads the fight against metal theft

The City of Edinburgh Council is leading the fight against lead theft amongst local authorities in Scotland, working alongside Lothian and Borders Police, which is driving down the rate of this crime.

As a response to metal thefts across Scotland, the Scottish Business Crime Centre set up a working group to compile intelligence and share best practice to respond to professional stripping of lead and copper from buildings, railways and telephone services across the country.

The Council is leading the way with response strategies and is currently the only local authority on this working group. It has developed innovative solutions to tackling this issue by using motion detection alarms linked with CCTV cameras and DNA marking of the materials to help both prevent this type of theft but also to catch those responsible.

An example of this work in action took place late last year when the roof alarm at the Royal High Primary School was activated leading to the Police being called and a man was arrested.

On many Council buildings lead is now marked with a special DNA solution that indicates not only that it is lead from one of the authority's properties but the coding will identify the exact building from which the material had been taken.

In May 2011, 82 cases of metal theft were reported to the Police, city-wide. This had reduced to 32 in May 2012 and as few as 14 cases were reported last December.  Council buildings were subjected to these type of thefts on 44 occasions in 2011.  This reduced to only 10 incidents in 2012.*

Councillor Paul Godzik, Education Convener said: "The approach we have adopted is certainly making a difference and I would like to commend our staff, the Police and the wider working group.  

"With lead theft it is not simply the value of the lead or the cost to replace it that is the issue but in certain circumstances damage to buildings can increase the cost of repair and lead to school or building closures for repairs to take place.

"It is the cost to the community that is the real cost of this type of theft and we will continue to work with other organisations to tackle this issue."

Detective Chief Inspector, Phil Gachagan, of Lothian and Borders Police said: "Metal theft from a building can result in significant structural damage and may also have severe financial implications for the building's owner or operator.  There is a risk for the public when live wires are exposed as is the case for the perpetrator who also puts themselves in danger when the theft takes place from high roofs and unsafe structures.

"Through our continued work alongside partner agencies including the City of Edinburgh Council, we have seen a notable decrease in the number of metal thefts reported within the capital.

"We are committed to tackling acquisitive crime in all its forms and anyone found to be involved in the theft of metal will be robustly dealt with."

A concerted effort is being made by the working group nationally to change existing practices and legislation which governs the transportation and resale of these materials to create barriers to what may be seen as easy money from selling stolen lead and copper.

This approach forms part of the city-wide security strategy which is being put in place to protect property, staff and customers who work in or visit council buildings across the city.  Further to this the Council with the support of the Scottish Business Crime Centre is looking to form a national forum for property security best practice to be shared across all Scottish Local Authorities.

* These figures represent incidents of successful thefts, it does not include incidences where the theft was prevented or an individual was arrested for the crime.

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