Thieves stole metal hundreds of times in the Thames Valley last year, figures show.
The Local Government Association said a rise in metal theft across England and Wales – caused in part by an increase in metal prices – is “extremely damaging and costly” for businesses and people affected.
Office for National Statistics data shows Thames Valley Police recorded 747 metal theft offences in 2020-21 – though this was down significantly from 1,719 the year before.
Of the thefts last year, 435 were infrastructure-related, which includes the stripping of metal such as roofing lead from buildings, taking electricity or railway cables, or stealing vehicle parts.
The remaining 312 were non-infrastructure related, which could involve stealing scrap metal or war memorial plaques.
Across England and Wales, 19,000 metal theft offences were recorded last year – up from 17,400 the year before, and the highest number since 2014-15.
Of these, 57% were related to infrastructure – the highest proportion on record.
The LGA said the introduction of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 – brought in to crack down on the trade in stolen metal – was initially successful, but rates have now risen.
Nesil Caliskan, chair of the LGA’s safer and stronger communities board, said: “Metal theft can affect a range of people and businesses and is extremely damaging and costly.
“Councils target their resources as efficiently as possible and do what they can to support businesses to meet the requirements of the legislation – and can take enforcement action where issues are identified.”
She added the LGA is calling on the Government to update the Scrap Metal Dealers Act and introduce an offence of advertising for and receiving cash for scrap metal to act as a deterrent.
The ONS said the 9% increase in overall offences nationally came after improved recording of the theft of catalytic converters – which contain precious metals – by the Metropolitan Police.
RAC Insurance spokesman Simon Williams said: “Police forces run awareness campaigns but, as with most car crime, the first line of defence is for drivers to take whatever steps they can to stop their vehicles being targeted in the first place.”
Mr Williams said these could include keeping cars parked in a locked garage or well-lit street, as well as ensuring the vehicle’s exhaust is close to a wall or fence when parked, to deter criminals.
In the Thames Valley, there were 3.1 metal theft offences per 10,000 people last year – down from 7.1 per 10,000 people the year before.
But this was higher than the average across the South East, of 2.3.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “We funded the set-up of the National Infrastructure Crime Reduction Partnership, which ensures national co-ordination of policing and law enforcement partners to tackle metal theft, including vehicle and agricultural-related theft.
“The partnership has provided training to law enforcement and other partner agencies, shares intelligence to target offenders, and implements crime prevention measures.”