In the week that a Middlesex newsagent’s was flooded after being targeted by metal thieves, police forces and service providers have stepped up their fight against the growing problem.

‘Operation Tornado’ has been launched across five forces in the Midlands, with the aim of regulating the scrap metal industry and restricting the movement of stolen metal.

The scheme, which requires all those selling scrap metal to provide proof of identity, has been trialled successfully in the North East and is spearheaded by the British Transport Police (BTP). Scrap metal dealers are also required to keep appropriate records of purchases.

“By helping criminals to turn stolen metal into cash, dealers are fuelling this crime which is blighting our infrastructure and disrupting the lives of ordinary people on a daily basis,” BTP deputy chief constable Paul Crowther said.

In South Yorkshire, 400 police officers carried out raids on scrap metal yards, confiscating large amounts of stolen metal and making arrests.

Meanwhile BT, which already marks its cabling with Smartwater, went live with a new fast-response system to catch criminals in the act last week.

The system constantly monitors the BT network and detects when a disconnection has taken place, enabling BT to notify the police of any crime within seconds.

Newsagent Gobinath Thambarja of Forbuoys in Hayes was forced to close for a day after thieves attempting to steal his metal water pipes flooded the store, damaging stock and tills.

Gobinath said: “It was lucky that we caught the leak after just a few hours, otherwise the damage would have been a lot worse. All of this was done for a bit of metal - it’s crazy.”