POLICE are targeting gangs of metal thieves who are stealing copper gas pipes, leaving dozens of homes in the Capital cut off and putting lives at risk.
Officers are set to visit scrap metal dealers in a bid to trace the culprits supplying the trade, while road checks will also be carried out to catch thieves transporting their hauls.
The crackdown comes in the wake of the theft of copper piping from homes in the Carrick Knowe area this week, which one resident said had left up to 120 homes without gas.
The theft of £4000 of copper pipes from outside homes in Wester Hailes, nine in Calder Gardens and three in Calder Court, also left these residents without gas on October 7.
Scotland Gas Networks today branded the incidents where thieves tampered with supply pipes as “highly dangerous” as police continued to investigate.
Metal thefts have soared in the Lothians in recent years as the price of scrap metal has reached an all-time high, with lead and copper among the biggest targets.
A Carrick Knowe resident, whose flat was targeted, said: “They took the external pipe from the meter up to the flat. They go for the upper flats because there is a good length of piping, about 30ft.
“At least they had the decency to turn the gas off at the main.
“I went to run a bath and there was no hot water. I thought it was a problem with the boiler, but then I found the gas cooker wasn’t working. My wife went outside and found the pipe was missing. They had just ripped it off the wall.”
The resident, who asked not to be named, said a gas engineer had told them there had been around 120 similar cases in the area.
A Scotland Gas Networks spokeswoman said: “Tampering with gas supplies is unsafe and irresponsible. We want to stop these crimes because they are highly dangerous to the general public and our own engineers who are called out at all times of the day and night.”
In Edinburgh, road checks are being conducted throughout the city to target people transporting stolen metal.
In West Lothian, officers have visited scrap metal dealers to raise awareness of the issue and encourage them to report any concerns or suspicions.
It follows the theft of more than £30,000 worth of electrical cable from Ecosse Regeneration in Harthill. The cabling was taken from 67 lampposts between October 14 and 17.
Sergeant Scott Sneddon said: “Every day people’s routine business is disrupted by metal thieves, whether it be lampposts not working, trains being cancelled, or simply the loss of telephone or internet.
“We are taking a stance and saying we will not tolerate this.
“We are committed to dealing robustly with anyone found to be involved in this.”