CRAFTY thieves seeking to make a profit from scrap metals have been blamed for the sharp rise in aluminium thefts across Solihull.
Back in July, the Solihull News reported on a series of lead thefts, including St Anne's Catholic Church in Chelmsley Wood, which had lead stripped from its roof three times in a fortnight.
The soaring price of scrap lead - almost double its value over two years - was thought to have boosted the summer-long stealing spree.
A joint initiative between the council and police helped drive down reports of lead thefts, but recently, Solihull has seen a rise in other metals being stolen - particularly aluminium items.
Solihull Council is among organisations hit hard by such thefts, with road signs and even chevrons being targeted by hopeful thieves.
Already £24,000 of taxpayers' money has been spent replacing stolen directional signs and a further £50,000 will be spent replacing other signs.
Councillor Ted Richards, cabinet member of transport, highways and infrastructure, said: "At first glance it may seem amusing that some people are stealing our signs, and some people obviously find the temptation of cash too hard to resist.
"But actually it is hitting each and every one of us in the pocket, as large amounts of money has to be spent replacing them."
He slammed the crooks for putting lives at risk by removing chevrons.
"This obviously puts drivers in danger, as they have no warning of oncoming bends," he said.
Over the past year, the council has put in place a number of measures which has reduced the numbers of signs being stolen, including placing stickers on the back of the signs to state there is no scrap value, and using signs made out of composite materials to lower their market value.
Mike Andrews, of Andrew Metals in Shirley said metal thefts had been "a general problem which has been ever-present in the scrap metal business."
He explained that the price of aluminium has remained stable over the last 12 months, at around £600 a tonne, and that it was one of many metals being traded illegally."I've heard of cases of cast iron drain covers being stolen and even catalytic converters, being sawn off cars and sold for their platinum content."
Lindsay Millington, director general of the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) described metal theft as a "major headache" for the recycling industry.
"There are too many criminals evading the rules and seeking to piggy-back the industry's success."
Lindsay said the BMRA meet regularly with police to discuss methods of deterring criminals and closing down un-registered recycling sites.
To report a stolen sign call the council on 0121 704 6000