SCHOOL premises along with churches, offices and public buildings have been among the main targets for thieves cashing in on a crime trend brought about by scrap metal prices increasing in value several times over.
The export value of lead and other metals is encouraging both petty and organised criminals to take advantage and steal anything from manhole covers to copper piping, lead roofing to drainpipes and lead windows to flashing.
To overcome this growing problem, a new forensic ‘grease’ called SelectaDNA Grease has been developed which can be painted onto any zinc metal, copper piping or lead roofing.
Once a thief handles the metal, the grease transfers onto their hands and clothing and the criminal is then irrefutably linked to the crime scene. The grease is almost impossible to remove, and contains both a UV tracer and a unique DNA code.
Police are currently using the product throughout the UK in a bid to reduce and deter lead theft. Painting the lead with the grease suddenly makes the lead ‘hot property’ - nobody wants to go near it and its value on the open market drops.
Also if a suspect is stopped for metal theft, the police can forensically analyse the perpetrator and the stolen material and link the suspect to the crime scene.
A primary school, near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire was recently targeted by thieves who stole a huge section of the copper roof overnight, leaving three classrooms unusable and the school with a £30,000 repair bill.
A police spokesman said: “Metal theft from schools is a major inconvenience to all those involved – from the teachers to the pupils to the premises manager.”
“If roofing materials are stolen and it starts to rain, electrical systems inside the premises can be damaged by flooding, which means that the school can’t open until the problem is fixed. We have seen several cases where classrooms have been flooded, causing school equipment to be damaged and children’s work has been ruined.”
He continued: “If anyone on school premises sees any suspicious activity – such as workers turning up unexpectedly, they should call the police immediately. We would rather be called out and find that the workers are legitimate than not be called and miss the opportunity to catch thieves in the act of stealing lead.”
Jason Brown, head of business development at Selectamark, the company that markets the DNA grease, said: “There are certain measures which a school can take to reduce its risk of being exposed to metal thieves, but by far the strongest is using a product which the criminal knows will link him to the offence.
“By transferring a unique forensic code to the thief’s hands and clothing, SelectaDNA Grease immediately makes protected schools ‘no-go’ areas for lead thieves. It really is an extremely powerful weapon in the fight against metal theft, and as a result, many police forces are now adopting its use.”
Top 10 Tips To Deter Metal Theft
1. Identify exactly where any valuable metal is on the school premises and make sure it is adequately protected. Install CCTV with an infra-red facility.
2. Don’t leave wheelie bins or ladders lying around the premises – as they will make it easier for a thief to gain access to the roof.
3. Organise a letter drop to local residents to ask them to keep a watchful eye when the school is closed and report any suspicious behaviour to police.
4. Use floodlighting to light any risk areas. Make sure the lighting works as evenings draw in.
5. Look out for people acting suspiciously or ‘casing’ the school.
6. Consider removing bushes or other hiding places.
7. Use anti-vandal paint above two metres high (and post a warning it is there).
8. Restrict vehicle access to the school premises.
9. Set up regular checks and increase security activity around the premises.
10. Consider using SelectaDNA Grease protection on any exposed metal and erect deterrent warning signs to indicate that everything is DNA marked.