AN initiative to tackle the growing number of metal thefts has seen the number of incidents fall in Wiltshire.

In September last year the number of reported metal thefts in the county was 77, compared with 204 in September 2011.

And so far this month 29 metal thefts have been reported, compared with 131 in January last year.

Operation Tornado, a multi-agency initiative, was launched in the summer last year and a number of local scrap metal dealers were targeted as part of the operation to see if they were trading stolen metal.

Wiltshire Police worked alongside organisations including BT, the Environment Agency, Western Power, the Lead Sheet Association and local government departments.

Acting Detective Sergeant James Neighbour said: “This is a significant reduction in a crime that has wide-ranging impacts on local communities.

“This operation is as much about educating those who deal in scrap metal about the pitfalls of buying metal which may be stolen as well as the unannounced raids last year.

“Scrap metal dealers no longer trade in cash, which has had a massive impact on the number of opportunist metal thieves trying their luck to sell stolen metal on.

“Metal theft causes misery for thousands of people across the country and evidence in 2011 highlighted the fact that criminals were diversifying and targeting metal from other areas including power cables, utilities pipe work and telecommunications cabling.”

DS Neighbour said the figures are positive but the force will continue to target metal theft criminals and anyone with information can come forward in the strictest of confidence.

Anyone who wants to report a crime can call Wiltshire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.