Club Cricket Conference

Wednesday, 22nd May 2024

Metal thefts hitting cricket clubs - large ground items taken

By Charles Randall

19 January 2012

Cricket clubs are especially vulnerable to metal theft, and police are advising that extra precautions are needed to prevent serious loss during an epidemic that shows no sign of abating.

The Club Cricket Conference is urging clubs to step their efforts to deter thieves. Simple preventative measures are more necessary now than ever while worldwide prices remain high.

Heavy rollers, copper piping and all sorts of metal items were stolen in 2011 during the crisis. Alf Langley, the Club Cricket Conference chairman, said that sports clubs, however vulnerable, would not be top priority for police while thieves were causing serious hazard by stealing items such as cabling and church roofing. "Clubs simply must take extra care, because thefts can cause serious damage to the pavilion and cause inconvenience generally, not to mention higher insurances premiums," he said.

Clubs in isolated positions are vulnerable, especially those with easy lorry access. Heavy machinery is stolen for metal value, rather than resale, and rollers left outside become automatic targets. Occasional patrols by members to the cricket ground in quiet day-time hours should be made, and any lorries in the area should be viewed with suspicion. Clubs must be mindful that thieves sometimes return to 'finish the job'.

Clubs should definitely consider marking items with identifying chemicals such as SmartWater or Selectamark products. Smartwater Technology Ltd are marketing an indelible liquid that can be 'read' under ultraviolet light so that an owner can be identified from items seized by police -- an acknowledged deterrent to metal thieves in particular.

Police suggest delaying the fitting of metal such as copper tanks and copper pipes if a premises is going to be empty -- or even the removal of metal. If metal is marked, signs on vacant properties should warn that this has been done. In some cases CCTV might have to be installed if the likelihood of theft seems high.

Scotland Yard formed their first dedicated London unit to tackle metal theft just before Christmas, located in Bexley. The scale of the problem was illustrated in the first two weeks of December when BBC News reported that police officers had carried out 275 inspections and searches of scrap dealer yards, leading to the arrest of 15 people for offences ranging from burglary to transporting waste metal illegally without a licence.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper obtained figures suggesting that the number of reported metal thefts had doubled in the past five years, with a projected figure of 60,000 offences in the first 10 months of 2011.

A total of 23 forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland supplied figures to the newspaper, along with the British Transport Police, disclosing that 29,132 metal thefts were committed up to the beginning of November this year.

Among the worst-hit areas were Lancashire, Kent, Nottinghamshire and County Durham, but the true scale could be hidden by a lack of uniform rules on record-keeping and the fact that many thefts went unreported.

The largest increases in thefts were found in Lancashire, Cambridgeshire, Warwickshire and Surrey. The Home Office is considering ways of bolstering the 1964 Scrap Metal Dealers Act by introducing trade restrictions and banning cash purchases. About half of all scrap yards are suspected of illegal dealings.

The Crewe Chronicle reported that Nantwich CC had had their cellar cooling system ripped out early one evening in November, and the club suffered again 10 days later when their 100-year-old wicket roller was taken. The club's chairman Rob Sproston said: "It's the first time for years we've had any problems with thieves. It must be a metal gang. Those rollers are seriously heavy. They clearly knew what they were doing."

In Cheshire again, another club had heavy rollers stolen in the same month. Weston CC reported three antique rollers had gone, weighing 500lbs, 300lbs and 200lbs. The Cleckheaton club Hartshead Moor CC, in Yorkshire, had a one-tonne roller carted off in October along with a small amount of copper piping, which caused considerable water damage. In September thousands of pounds of damage was inflicted on Blaina CC in Gwent with the theft of their copper boiler and pipework, with water from the attic gushing through the ceiling into the clubhouse. An unsuccessful attempt was made to steal a grass roller from a container nearby.

A year ago Allscott CC, near Telford, had a gang mower and roller stolen and needed a fund-raising campaign to recover financially.