THIEVES stole allotment taps that had deliberately been fitted after the previous ones were also stolen.

The theft took place at the Joseph Rowntree Trust’s Poppleton Road Allotments earlier this month.

Bill Cooper, 76, a member of the allotments’ committee, said “fountains of water” were discovered coming out of the ground where the taps had been stolen.

As the site does not have the facilities to switch individual pipes off, water to the whole allotment had to be turned off, putting the crops of hundreds of people at risk.

The allotment is made up of around 138 plots, with approximately 150 allotment-holders using the site.

Police attended but Mr Cooper said that “unless you can catch the thieves red-handed it’s very difficult to trace them”.

The theft left the allotments without water for over a week, and it is hoped somebody will be able to replace the taps this weekend.

The taps stolen were virtually worthless, but it is thought the thieves wrongly believed they had scrap value.

The allotments have been the regular target of similar incidents in the past, Mr Cooper said, and Mr Cooper also had a copper pipe taken from his own garden.

North Yorkshire Police say on their website that copper, aluminium, brass and bronze are the metals most commonly stolen, with “copper being a particular problem in rural areas of North Yorkshire”.

Operation Tornado, a national scheme designed to crack down on metal theft, was introduced into the City of York in April 2012, and in December 2012 banned scrap metal dealers from trading purely in cash.

It is hoped that, as the scheme requires anyone selling scrap metal to dealers to provide photographic proof of identity, the number of incidents involving metal theft will decline.