Home Office figures show Essex Police recorded 661 metal thefts in the year to March – a decrease of 25 per cent from 883 the year before.
Of those, 455 were non-infrastructure related, involving scrap metal theft or the removal of war memorial plaques.
The rest were infrastructure-related, such as the stripping of metal such as roofing lead from buildings, taking electricity or railway cables, or stealing vehicle parts.
This gave the area covered by Essex Police a rate of 3.5 thefts per 10,000 people – lower than the average of 4.9 for England and Wales.
Although there were 1,474 fewer metal theft offences across England and Wales in 2022-23 than in 2021-22, numbers have been on the rise in the last two years.
There were more than 28,400 thefts as of March, while just over 19,000 were recorded in the same period of 2020-21.
Antonia Grey, of the British Metal Recycling Association, said: “Over the years, the type of theft shifted from low-value, low-volume thefts to high-value, high-volume thefts such as entire lead roofs.
“In the face of recession and economic difficulties, it is likely that the true numbers of metal thefts are far greater than those published by the ONS, which does not report all metal theft incidents.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “We are taking a zero-tolerance approach to crime and, as we recently announced, police forces across England and Wales have committed to pursuing all leads where there is a reasonable chance it could result in catching a perpetrator and solving a crime.”