POLICE visited 31 premises across Wirral and Merseyside on Thursday as part of a crackdown on metal theft.

The operation took place to ensure that those involved in the sale or purchase of scrap metal are complying with new legislation that came in October 2013, meaning they require an operator’s licence from their local authority.

During the day of action, officers recovered 141 beer kegs to the value of £15,000 from one site, closed a further site and recovered an additional £3,000 of property.

Officers also stopped 48 mobile scrap collectors and seized four of their vehicles, while a further 20 were reported for various offences including not having a collector’s licence or waste certificate.

Chief Inspector John Hogan said: “The new legislation around metal theft is a powerful tool in our crime prevention and enforcement armoury. From now on, those selling scrap metal to dealers will be required to provide identification, no cash will be allowed to exchange hands and dealers will require an operator’s licence.

"This new legislation is just one series of measures designed to restrict the sale and movement of stolen metal and will help us seek out those dealers and sellers who operate outside of the law, whilst ensuring honest dealers can continue to operate legitimately.

"We want to continue to work with those dealers who are registered with their local authority, to help fight the stolen metal trade and make it more difficult for thieves to make money through targeting our communities for metal.”

Merseyside Police and partner agencies will continue to visit scrap metal dealers in Merseyside as part of metal theft investigations, intelligence gathering and to ensure they are complying with the new legislation, which also applied to mobile collectors.

Chief Inspector Hogan added: "We recognise that metal theft can cause service interruption for the provision of utilities and services such as electricity, water, gas, telecommunications and rail transport. This type of crime is something that has caused misery to many and we’re determined to work with our partner agencies to clamp down on it.

"Residents, businesses and criminals should be aware that this activity is another example of our focus on this type of crime and we will be carrying out further work around Merseyside. The community are our eyes and ears and by sharing information and intelligence we can target those involved in this crime and bring them to justice."

If you have any information about the theft of metal, you should call the police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.