BY RICHARD CORNWELL, Felixstowe editor
Friday, March 30, 2012
GANGS stealing metal across the region to sell abroad to fund criminal activities have today had their network seriously disrupted thanks to a successful operation.
Police and Border Force officials, and other agencies, have recovered more than £500,000 worth of stolen metal, including scrap, cars and power cables.
The materials were being stolen to order and shipped abroad through ports, including Felixstowe and Harwich.
Officers showed off some of the cargo which had been seized while waiting to be exported through the Port of Felixstowe.
Det Insp Gary Brotherhood, who led Operation Chisel, said there was no doubt that the metal – bound for West Africa, China, India and northern Cyprus – had been stolen specifically for markets where it was destined.
Cars were often cut up into parts, for which there is an extensive market.
“The theft and planned exportation of these goods is clearly the work of serious and organised crime groups using this as a means to finance and fund organised crime,” he said.
“This investigation will have significantly disrupted sophisticated criminal networks.
“We will continue to work with partners to tackle these crimes and look at areas where we can make it difficult for criminals to operate in this way.
“We will not tolerate regional ports being used to export stolen vehicles and metals.”
Operation Chisel is still ongoing and Det Insp Brotherhood said people involved in the metal thefts were still under investigation.
Items seized included more than 500 liquid propane gas cylinders.
Brian Hill, deputy director of central region for the Border Force, said partnership working was the key to the success of the operation.
“The police are collecting a range of intelligence on the thefts and we then do risk profiles to identify possible cargo and use scanning technology on the containers to see what’s inside before they are opened,” he said.
The project was co-ordinated by ERSOU, the Eastern Region Special Operation Unit, with officers from Suffolk, Essex, Norfolk, Herts, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire, working with the Border Force, Maritime and Coastguard Agency, with technical support from private companies such as Ipswich Audi.