Metal thieves putting Norwich lives at risk

Sarah HallPeople's lives could be put at risk because thieves are cutting gas pipes as they strip metal from homes and businesses around Norwich, police have warned.Sarah Hall

People's lives could be put at risk because thieves are cutting gas pipes as they strip metal from homes and businesses around Norwich, police have warned.

Police have seen a surge in the number of metal thefts around the city in the past five months, with a particular spate during April and May, which could be linked to a hike in the prices of metal.

Three people have been arrested, but theives continue to target the west centre, city centre and Mile Cross, Catton and Fiddlewood areas of Norwich, police said.

The criminals have targeted businesses, as well as people's homes, making off with copper and lead.

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But police said the criminals could also be putting people's lives at risk because in some cases they have cut gas pipes, creating a safety risk and affecting central heating and air conditioning.

Lead flashing has also been removed from the outside of houses.

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Inspector Nigel Richards, from the police's west centre safer neighbourhood team, said: 'We are putting the recent rise down to the fact that metal prices have risen.

'We have made some arrests and we continue to treat this spate of thefts very seriously and will arrest anyone believed to be working in connection with this illegal activity.'

Mile Cross, Catton and Fiddlewood safer neighbourhood team sergeant Anthony Abigail said: 'In our area thieves have been targeting abandoned factory units where thousands of pounds worth of metal has been stolen.

'We would advise owners of the disused units to step up their security by incorporating a burglar alarm and having secure locks on the premises.'

Ross McDermott, city centre safer neighbourhood team inspector, warned: 'We would urge anyone to contact the police if they see any suspicious activity of this nature. We are also working with scrap metal merchants to identify suspicious exchanges of metal for cash.'

The Evening News reported last month how church leaders had called on people in the city to keep a look out for thieves looking to strip lead from historic buildings.

The plea cames as it emerged St George's Church in Colegate had lead ripped from its roof between 6pm on Wednesday, April 28 and 6pm on Thursday April 29.

And in 2007 damage caused when lead was stolen from the St Andrew's Church in Trowse led to water pouring the the roof, ruining the church organ and tearing through plaster on one of the walls.

Anyone with information about scrap metal thefts or anyone who spots somebody acting suspiciously should contact Norfolk police on 0845 456 4567 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

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