Brass-necked thieves robbing plates from front doors

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THE rising price of brass has caused a wave of thefts from the front doors of an upmarket neighbourhood in Edinburgh.

Houses in the capital’s New Town and west end areas have been targeted, with antique letter boxes, name plates and door knockers being pried off and sold off as scrap.

Metal was seen as a trophy during the Victorian period, and residents would unbolt the fashionable fittings when they went on holiday to prevent them being knocked off.

Kick-plates stretching around 4ft along the bottom of doors can bring in around £200 and second hand letter boxes can be sold for around £20.

Scrap brass metal has been known to fetch as much as £2 per pound and the figure is being pushed up by demand in countries like China.

This has risen from £1.50 per pound three years ago, according to the London Metal Exchange.

Residents say they do not bother reporting these incidents of theft to police because they believe it is unlikely they will be recovered.

But city centre councillor Charles Dundas stressed the importance of reporting such thefts to allow police to tackle the problem.

World market

He said: “Recording a theft of this kind with the police means that they can direct resources into tackling it in specific streets and areas if they know there is a gang of people particularly targeting one thing.

“This spate of thefts is undoubtedly driven by the rising price of metals on the world market.”

Peter Verity, 67, a retired architect who lives in the New Town’s Scotland Street – made famous by Alexander McCall Smith’s novels – said his 4ft kick-plate and door knocker were stolen recently.

He said: “They had been screw drivered off during the night and taken away.

“Some of the screws were even left nearby on the ground.

“I can only see it’s of minor benefit to the people stealing them, but a major nuisance to us.

“Our street is pleasant and relatively quiet – the thought of meeting a thief at the front door with a screwdriver in his hand is certainly not a nice thought.

“I have noticed quite a few gaps on doors recently where it is obvious brass kick plates should be, but are not.

“It doesn’t look good and ultimately costs us all money to replace them.”

Detering criminals

Mr Verity, whose neighbourhood also includes two sheriffs who sit on the Scottish judiciary, was quoted £150 for his new kick plate for the stair door, and another £80 to have it welded on.

He has since secured a new plate and knocker with super-strength bolts and glue in the hope it will deter the brass-necked thieves from doing it again.

Lewis Young, a salesman at Edina Lock and Key in the New Town area, said: “I can see exactly why this is happening, brass is going for a really high price just now and this sort of thing has happened in the past.

“Replacing items can range from £20 anywhere up to £150 – depending on what’s gone missing and the type of item you choose.

“I can imagine it’s a bit of a headache for the residents in the area who’ve had this happen to them, especially if the pieces were antiques.”

Scrap metal dealers across the city confirmed they had been contacted by the police, warning them of the thefts.

A spokeswoman for Bernard Hunter Ltd, scrap metal processors based on Gilmerton Road, said: “The value of the brass will be determined by its weight – we offer around £600 per tonne.

“The police were in touch to let us know what had been happening.

“This brass will probably be quite old and therefore good quality.”

A spokesman for Holyrood Architectural Salvage said: “The thieves don’t try to sell the objects in Edinburgh.

“Either they take them down south or to other parts of Scotland.”

Alistair Smith, of Central New Town Residents’ Association, said the brass fittings could be costly to replace, which could see residents reverting back to the Victorian way of protecting them.

He said: “The Victorians used to unbolt their door knockers that were specifically made so when they were going on holiday they could take them down to stop them being stolen.

“Some even used to board up their doors when they went away.”

Back in June 2008, two bronze propellers belonging to the Royal Yacht Britannia were taken from a warehouse at Leith Docks. The 7ft items were worth more than £7000 each and would have required specialist lifting gear to remove.

A police spokesperson said: “Lothian and Borders Police would always encourage anyone who has been a victim of crime to get in touch and report any incidents, either directly at a police station, or over the phone, on 0131 311 3131.”

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