THE Northumbria Police force area experienced one of the highest levels of metal thefts across the country during 2018.

In research conducted by online stockists metals4U into reports of metal theft across the county, with Northumbria ranking in sixth place overall with a total of 709 reports.

That figure was up by three per cent from 2017 when a total of 689 related crimes were reported. The increase of three per cent, however, was the ninth smallest increase nationwide, according to the research.

As part of the study, researchers engaged with representatives from the British Transport Police and Network Rail as live railway cable theft featured heavily in the figures.

It was reported that, on rail services across England, Scotland and Wales, there were more than 950 hours of delays as a result, which affected more than 7,000 journeys.

British Transport Police reported that trespass and theft now accounted for 73 peer cent of all disruption to services.

Supt Mark Cleland, the British Transport Police's national lead for metal crime, said: "We work with police forces nationally to root out metal crime and ensure that thieves are identified and brought before the courts.

"Of course, a big part of tackling this issue is identifying the thieves and the scrap metal dealers who continue to trade in stolen property. We have a number of active investigations up and down the nation investigating dealers such as these.

"We also provide advice and support to enable those at risk of criminality to protect their assets."

Thames Valley topped the list of most metal theft crimes with a total of 1,193 reports throughout the year.

Then followed Cleveland (949), West Midlands (905), Lancashire (879) and West Yorkshire (857).