The Mossos d’Esquadra redouble their efforts to deal with the theft of copper after the chaos unleashed in the suburbs by a theft of this material from the railway infrastructure on May 12, coinciding with election day in Catalonia. In a meeting held on Wednesday and chaired by chief commissioner Eduard Sallent, the Generalitat police agreed to raise the current level 2 out of 3 of the plan that regulates this matter, the so-called specific operational plan (POE) for metal, to the entire Catalan territory, until now active at this level since the end of February in the north and south metropolitan police regions, and in the Camp de Tarragona.

Of course, the police authorities warn, as pointed out yesterday by the commissioner of the prefecture Rafel Comes, that the problem of copper theft will be “difficult to solve in the short term”, so that it will be necessary “a comprehensive approach and a more accurate diagnosis beyond strictly police”. In this sense, Comes pointed out that it will probably be necessary to “rethink” the need to carry out legislative reforms and obtain “more inspection tools” at the waste management centers.

Precisely, the police authorities will put the focus on those hardware stores that do not comply with the regulations, a minority of the 326 companies in the sector that would represent 10%, according to estimates from the Mossos d’Esquadra. For centers that act irregularly and in “connivance” with metal thieves, police forces will apply a “zero tolerance” policy with an increase in inspections, of which 16% ended in violations, of 312 carried out in 2023. Since the beginning of this year, 172 controls have been carried out. The most common irregularities correspond to the failure to communicate data when the mandatory searches are carried out.

As La Vanguardia reported, the mafias that buy the stolen copper export it to resell it in Spain. An illegal trade that the same sector has been denouncing for some time at a time when the value of this metal has increased considerably, to 9.5 euros per kilo. “The data indicate that in Catalonia since 2010 there has been a direct relationship between the increase in the price of copper and the increase in thefts. The theft of metals affects everything from electrical installations, companies to critical infrastructures”, warned the Mossos.

Among other measures, coordination with rail operators will be improved to communicate incidents in real time and those that take place due to power line voltage drops. Initiatives that aim to stop the escalation of copper thefts on the railway network, as the statistics show. Adif filed 263 complaints between May 2023 and April 2024, 31% more compared to the 199 in the same previous period, the Mossos report.

On the other hand, aerial surveillance will be implemented in a preventive manner through aerial means with helicopters and the use of drones, which will also be activated at night. In addition, investigative work will be intensified to put a siege on criminal groups and a criminal phenomenon that crosses borders.