GALLERY AND VIDEO: Scrap yard boss insists “everything is and always has been” above board as police check him out

SCRAPYARD boss Mick Denton looked disconsolately around his yard today and wondered aloud what he needs to do to stop being regularly searched by hordes of officials.

“They are looking for cable and trying to nick me- yet everything is, and always has been, above board,” he said.

“And what really gets me is they caught the thieves who were trying to rob me last month but simply gave them a caution. It is beyond belief.”

Mr Denton’s scrapyard in Osborne Road, Wisbech, was one of a number in Fenland visited today by police as part of Operation Magnet, a new crackdown on metal theft.

A police spokesman said officers would be “taking a hard line on thieves who are costing the county thousands of pounds every month and potentially causing widespread disruption”

A week of action will see officers and representatives from local councils and BT Open Reach, visiting scrap metal dealers across the county.

They will be checking to ensure the sites and people using them are operating within the law.

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If they have not already, dealers will also be asked to sign up to the Responsible Scrap Metal Dealer Scheme.

“That’s all very well but what about those who steal from us,” said Mr Denton. “Last month they caught a group of people who were trying to break into my yard- they were all Romanian gypsies from Birmingham and a professional and highly trained team.

“They arrested five of them but then released them all with just a caution. They even had a new pay as you go phone on them – costing a tenner from Tesco- to help run their operation.”

Mr Denton added: “If the police were to find stolen cable at my hard they would nick me. But when they caught thieves nicking my cable that I bought legally they let them go. That’s not right.”

He said police and officials spent three hours today at his yard “but they won’t find anything because we haven’t done anything wrong.”

Detective Chief Inspector Kevin Vanterpool, who is leading Ooperation Magnet, said: “It would be wrong to think of this type of crime as victimless. Theft of underground cable can potentially have an impact on thousands of people by knocking out phone lines and internet services.

“Likewise, theft of metal and machinery from rural locations costs victims thousands of pounds, on top of the disruption.

“Our aim is to work with partner agencies and scrap dealers to make it hard for metal thieves to profit from their crimes. Op Magnet will make Cambridgeshire a hostile environment for thieves to operation within.”

DCI Vanterpool said information from the public was crucial to catching those responsible.

“Thieves will try to appear like genuine workmen but will often target isolated locations at unusual times of day”, he said.

“We would appeal for people to be vigilant and report anything they think is suspicious or out of the ordinary, particularly at isolated locations or around manhole covers.”