METAL thieves are being targeted in a crackdown across Somerset.

A policing team has been set up to tackle the crime in Taunton, Wellington and the west of the county to coincide with a change in legislation that came into effect last week.

Changes have been made to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act, which has banned cash transactions at metal recycling yards.

Now, anybody selling scrap metal must provide ID and a utility bill in a bid to deter would-be thieves.

Detective Supt Mark Saunders said: “We will work with our police colleagues, partner agencies and commercial industries to take an intrusive approach in dealing with the thieves and handlers who make money at a cost to each and every tax payer.

“We welcome these changes to legislation. They have not been designed to inhibit legitimate dealers but to target those who actively and knowingly trade in stolen material. They will certainly assist in making it harder and less attractive to try and sell stolen metal.”

Metal has been hot property for thieves in recent times due to the increasing rise in prices, with thefts estimated to cost the UK £1billion a year.

Church roofs, outbuildings and electricity stations have been popular targets across the region.

Sims Metal Management has installed card readers at all its UK sites following the cash ban, including the yard on Priory Way, Taunton.

Derek Campbell said: “The card reader will accept any visa debit card and works in much the same way as when you get a refund in a shop.

“We insert the customer’s card, type in the amount, get them to sign a receipt and the money will be transferred into their account.”

If you have information about illegal activities in your area call 101 or visit avonandsomerset