Metal Theft Puts Jobs At Risk At World Rally Championship Supplier
The latest case of metal theft in the Midlands has put jobs at risk at one of the main suppliers to the World Rally Championship.
The newly-formed West Midlands Regional Metal Theft Taskforce has launched an investigation, in conjunction with local officers from West Mercia Police, into the crime, at Telford-based Cobra Seats at the weekend.
The Shropshire factory manufactures automotive seats, including ones used by the current British Rally Champion Keith Cronin, World Rally Champion class leader Craig Breen and British Touring Car leaders Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal. Their sporty seats even adorn the dug outs of Premiership Clubs including Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea.
Thieves broke into a secure storage unit at the factory and stole 4000 recliner mechanisms, worth just a few hundred pounds when scrapped but could affect £400,000 worth of production at the firm. The crime has had a significant impact on the business, and could well see the 20 employees having to operate on short time until the New Year.
Detective Inspector Gordon Roberts, Head of the Regional Metal Theft Taskforce, said: "This is one of those offences that offers very little to the thief but has rocked the company.
"The stolen goods weighed around two tons and their cost to the firm was tens of thousands of pounds, however the loss of the component parts could cost them up to £400,000.
"We urge any scrap dealers offered these items to come forward to help return them to Cobra, as well as helping our investigation."
The firm is now offering a reward for the return, in a bid to continue with production.
"The mechanisms are of no use to anyone else, so they must be targeted for their scrap value" explains Cobra MD Mark Dunsford.
"The ridiculous thing is that their scrap value is just a few hundred pounds - a fraction of what they cost us to buy from our German suppliers. They can of course be replaced but not for three months, which means that unless we recover them we will have to wind down production, put staff on short time and let down clients".
"If anyone has bought the goods in good faith we will more than reimburse them for their outlay providing we can get the parts back and maintain production".
The new Midlands region Metal Theft Taskforce launched in the summer to tackle organised criminals stealing large-scale or high-value metals. The team, which sits within the West Midlands Force Criminal Investigation Department, works in partnership with lead officers from West Mercia, Staffordshire and Warwickshire areas to further reduce crime.
Since the start of 2012 metal theft offences have been slashed by 60 per cent, with almost 2,500 fewer victims of metal theft related crime compared to the same period in 2011.
Last month a convicted thief was handed a suspended jail sentence and banned from scrap yards across the country after breaking into a scrap yard in Smethwick, West Midlands. Operation Steel has been running throughout the region for more than two years, with dedicated officers working tirelessly to buck the national trend of spiralling numbers of metal thefts.
The operation has seen officers working as part of dedicated metal theft teams, targeted uniformed patrols, DNA property marking and tighter controls for scrap metal traders.
Anyone with information as part of Operation Steel is urged to call their local police by dialling 101 or speak to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Issued: Tuesday 16 October by West Midlands Police