Dramatic drop in gully cover thefts follows campaign launch

By on 28/06/2012 in Cllr McKay, News

Amey and Birmingham City Council are celebrating after a new scheme to stamp out metal thefts on the city's roads yielded immediate results.

In March this year, the partnership, which maintains and manages Birmingham's roads, started using a unique forensic identifier to deter thieves from taking gully gratings - the metal covers at the side of the road by the kerb – and in three months has seen a dramatic reduction in thefts.

Stolen gully covers were becoming an increasingly large problem in the city and their theft is a threat to all road users. An open gully presents a major risk to cyclists and pedestrians in particular, especially in the dark, as they can be very difficult to see. Vehicles can also be damaged if they hit an open gully.

In the three months prior to the launch of the forensic product, 32 gully grates were taken from roads in just five wards in the north of the city. In the three months since the product was used, just eight grates were reported as missing across the same area.

The use of the product has also been supported by the trial of composite recycled plastic covers which have no resale value as replacements for metal covers which have been stolen. These unique covers can also be sealed in to prevent further vandalism or theft.

The forensic identifier leaves an indelible mark, visible under ultraviolet light, on the cover itself and anyone who touches it. Stolen covers can then be easily identified with the aid of UV light as the grease used by Amey and the City Council will contain a unique molecular code.

Covers across the city are being marked with the RedWeb grease, which has Police Preferred Specification status and has been approved by the Association of Chief Police Officers.

John Sunderland, Amey Business Director, said: “We are thrilled that we have had such an instant result with the new product that we are using to deter thieves and this is just the beginning.

“Theft of metal, such as gully covers, from the roads is not a victimless crime as open gully covers are extremely dangerous. Amey and Birmingham City Council will continue to work hard to address the issue and will do all we can to assist the police in bringing offenders to justice.”

Cllr James McKay, Cabinet Member for a Green, Safe and Smart city, said: “This is a great result for partnership working and sends a stark message to thieves that we will simply not tolerate them stealing metal from our roads and putting people's lives at risk.”

Sgt Phil Butler, from West Midlands Police's Operation Steel, which targets metal theft, worked with Amey and Birmingham City Council to launch the solution.

He said: “We have been delighted to see a reduction in reported metal theft compared to last year. The success is largely due to the hard work and dedication of front line police offices backed by a more robust intelligence system and working with our regional police colleagues.

“It is the case that improved marking of target materials reduces crime as it far easier for police to prove theft and handling beyond a reasonable doubt.

“We need the continued support from our community, so please let us know what you know about metal thieves, if you don't want to give your details continue to call the charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 about metal theft and any other crime.”

Anyone who sees a missing gully cover or manhole cover, should report this immediately to Birmingham City Council's contact centre on 0121 303 6644.

Ends

Notes to Editors

•    Whenever a gully cover is reported missing to the Amey help centre, an incident response team will attend the site within one hour to make it safe. This usually involves putting barriers around the open gully.

•    Drainage teams will then visit the site to replace the cover. We are currently trialling the use of composite replacement covers on some roads. These gratings are made from a unique recycled material that has no resale value. The grate can be sealed in with silicon sealant to further prevent theft or vandalism if required. The composite material is considerably lighter than traditional concrete or metal materials and can be fitted by one person.

•    In 2010, Amey won the Birmingham Highways Maintenance and Management Service contract to manage and maintain the city's roads over the next 25 years. The contract will see a huge investment into the city's road network and Amey is working in partnership with Birmingham City Council to deliver the contract. The works include refurbishment and improvement of the city's roads, footways, bridges, tunnels, street lighting and traffic control systems.

•    Amey is a leading UK infrastructure services provider with more than 11,000 staff. The company works across three main markets – Inter Urban, Local Government and Built Environment, which are supported by our award-winning consultancy division. Amey delivers services in the highways, roads, schools, waste, rail, fleet solutions, workspace, street lighting, commercial, housing and aviation sectors.

For more information, contact Kara Bradley on 0121 200 5002

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