Crimestoppers and Northern Powergrid look to communities to help pull the plug on metal thieves

15 April 2015

Independent Charity Crimestoppers and Northern Powergrid have joined forces to launch a campaign to highlight the misery and disruption metal thieves can cause for local communities and businesses when they steal from the electricity network.

The campaign, launched today (15 April), follows a number of incidents last year which caused power disruption for close to 37,000 local people in West Yorkshire and Stockton-on-Tees.

In 2014 there were 566 case of metal theft from Northern Powergrid’s electricity network across the North East, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire. Castleford (West Yorkshire) and Norton (Stockton-on-Tees) had a collective total of 83 reported metal theft incidents, which makes up some 14 per cent of all thefts from Northern Powergrid’s network that year.

The aim of the campaign activity is to engage with these communities to highlight the impact of this crime, and through online channels such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, appeal for anonymous information from local people about the criminals who are targeting their community.

The campaign, which will run across a 25 mile radius of both communities, also aims to increase awareness in neighbouring towns and villages of how metal theft can disrupt the power network that delivers electricity to people’s door and urge communities to be extra vigilant.

Northern Powergrid hear from customers affected by power cuts in these and other theft “hotspot” areas on a regular basis and continually strive to reduce the impact this disruption causes. In the home, lights and heating go off, cooking and washing facilities are disrupted and phones cannot be charged – to name a few impacts.

In the community street lights and traffic lights can stop working leading to darkness and traffic jams; industry production lines cease and businesses and shops may have to temporarily stop trading.

There is also the real safety concern of electrocution to anyone coming too close to damaged electrical equipment that has been interfered with by metal thieves.  This can include members of the public, the emergency services and livestock – as well as endangering Northern Powergrid staff when responding to an incident.

One high profile metal theft incident which occurred in 2013 left Rugby League side Castleford Tigers without power to their scoreboard, floodlights and executive boxes.

Other thefts plunged Teesside-based car parts manufacturer, Nifco, into darkness seven times, meaning plant machines, shop floor workers and office staff were unable to do their jobs.

These disruptions cost Nifco up to £10,000 each hour in lost productivity and cost Northern Powergrid large sums of money in repairs to the local power network.

Thieves also impact on local businesses such as shops and pubs.  The Sutton Arms, a country pub restaurant in Elton, Stockton-on-Tees, has experienced a number of power cuts caused by metal thieves causing the landlord to have to turn customers away. 

Mr Alan Flegg, Landlord of the Sutton Arms, said: “Metal thieves have cost us over £8,500. It horrendous when the power goes off, I have to turn customers away and watch my pub empty. We have no lights and even the gas equipment won’t work without electricity meaning we can’t prepare food for customers who are sat down waiting to eat.”  

Dave Hunter, Crimestoppers Regional Manager, said: “Alongside Northern Powergrid we are determined to communicate the dangers and disruption caused by theft from the electricity network and help bring down the thieves responsible for these crimes.

“The mass disruption for all affected, be it businesses, communities or households, and the effect this is having on local industry, cannot continue. We need members of the public to shed some light on who is responsible for these crimes where they have any information, so that we can prevent you from being left in the dark. We don’t want to know who you are, we only want to know what you know.”

Nigel Walker, Northern Powergrid’s Vulnerable Assets Manager, said:  "Metal theft crime is hugely disruptive and affects community life in so many different ways.  We strive to keep the lights on and work really hard to get them back on as quick and safely as possible for our customers.

“Information from local people may just be the key to help catch the culprits.  We want local communities to join us and make a stand against the criminals targeting their area.  By working together with residents and local partners we can help prevent further metal theft crime and stop more power cuts affecting community life, local businesses and the economy.”

If you have any information on a metal theft incident please contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or through our Anonymous Online Form.

ENDS

 

If you require any further information please contact the Crimestoppers press office on 0208 835 3727 or email Kieran.theivam@crimestoppers-uk.org