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Scrap metal thieves shift attention to wood

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Prague, April 18 (CTK) – Organised groups that used to steal manhole covers from streets or pipes and other metal from construction sites have started to steal wood in some Czech regions after the introduction of stricter rules for buying out scrap metals, weekly Tyden writes in its issue out on Monday.

The “tree thieves” are not only individuals who use the wood themselves for heating, but also gangs that sell the wood to others.

In 2015, the Environment Ministry banned scrapyard operators to pay for metals in cash. Moreover, the prices of metals have dropped considerably due to their surplus in Europe. As a result, the thefts of railway lines, manhole covers or traffic signs decreased by about one half last year, the magazine writes.

Illegal logging is one of the most serious problems with which the Czech Environmental Inspectorate (CIZP) has been dealing. In 2015, more than 18 hectares of forest were cut down illegally and the CIZP imposed 14 fines that reached 3.8 million crowns in total.

In southern Bohemia, wood worth hundreds of thousands of crowns disappeared from forests.

Wood is now being increasingly stolen in the rather poor Moravia-Silesia Region, in which metal thefts were more common than in other parts of the country before the ban on cash payments in scrapyards took effect, Tyden writes.

“The people who took scrap iron moved their attention to wood,” said Roman Galia, municipal police chief in Orlova, north Moravia. “They mostly cut the trees themselves, but about one metre above the ground,” he added.

The price per cubic metre is 700 crowns for soft wood and 1200 crowns or more for hard wood, Tyden writes.

Karel Kozubek, head of the CIZP Ostrava branch, said somebody cut trees in the Orlova and Karvina area with a manual saw and transported the middle parts of the trunks away on wheelbarrows.

It is hard to reveal the perpetrators in such cases and links to the former “scrap metal gangs” have not been proven yet, the weekly writes.

Tyden says it took three years to prove and punish the illegal felling of a forest in Dolni Lomna, northern Moravia, in the Beskydy Mountains near the Slovak border. Finally, CIZP fined the perpetrators 3.2 million crowns last autumn. This has been the second highest fine that the inspectorate imposed in 2015, Tyden writes.

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