Five men arrested as part of a PSNI operation targeting metal thieves in Derry have been released on bail.
Police say the five people were arrested as part of Operation Kivu - a police initiative launched in the city this week that is aimed at curbing the rising number of copper and lead thefts in the city.
A number of properties were also searched as part of the operation and lead and manhole covers recovered.
PSNI Area Commander Chief Inspector Jon Burrows, who led the operation, says there is a misguided belief that metal theft is a victimless crime.
“The properties being targeted by these callous thieves belong to the most vulnerable people in our communities. Pensioner bungalows in particular are susceptible to opportunistic criminals and older people are often repeat victims.
“Schools, cemeteries and churches have all been targeted in the last number of months meaning money is being spent on repairs instead of education and improving communities.
“Police are working closely with other agencies, and in particular Northern Ireland Housing Executive, to tackle the issue of metal thefts head on and provide reassurance to the public that steps are being taken to protect homes and other property.”
The theft of metal has soared in Derry over recent months.
Eddie Doherty of the Northern Ireland housing Executive (NIHE) says addressing the problem is taking money and resources away from much needed services.
“Over the last six months our organisation has spent in the region of £8,000 replacing lead flashing in the cityside area of Derry. This is money that could be better spent providing a service the people who live in Housing Executive properties.
“One of the short term preventative measures we are putting in place is using anti-vandal paint on the lead flashing to deter criminals. The paint will stick to your hands and clothes and is difficult to remove. What we really need is for residents to be vigilant and to report suspicious activity right away.”
Police have said that the public should expect similar operations in the future and have reissued advice to scrap dealers about not accepting metals from suspicious sources.