PICTURES of known thieves have been sent to scrap metal dealers and taxi drivers in a bid to stamp out metal thefts in East Lancashire.

As part of Operation Tremor, officers from Lancashire Constabulary in conjunction with the British Transport Police have sent around 100 images to dealers in Blackburn, Darwen and Accrington.

It comes after police say there has been a dramatic rise in copper thefts from both homes and railway lines.

Scrap dealers have been warned not to buy metal from anyone listed on the rogues gallery or anybody who seems suspicious.

And taxi drivers have also been warned not to pick up people carrying large amounts of the metal.

Thieves have been stealing copper boilers and piping and taking copper cables from train tracks, which can disable signalling equipment and safety devices.

The wire is used to carry information for automatic signalling and safety equipment.

Police say the price of copper has tripled in the past three years, making it an attractive commodity for thieves.

Dozens of officers have been working on the operation supported by the force's Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) team who were on hand to flag up vehicles belonging to people with motoring convictions, and ones wanted in connection with crime.

The operation was launched earlier this week and has so far seen two people arrested for burglary, one person arrested for disqualified driving and three people arrested for theft.

A further two people have been arrested for driving while disqualified and 12 vehicles have been seized.

Inspector Claire Holbrook, of Blackburn Police, said: "One offender in particular who was unemployed had cashed over £18,000 worth of scrap metal"

A spokesman for Network Rail said: "It's not been a massive problem in this part of the country. It's dangerous for the thief because of the electrical current."