Metal Theft on the Rise

Theft of copper and other metals on the increase

The level of theft of metal claims from buildings (copper, brass, lead), theft of copper wire from railway lines, telecom installations etc. is again on the increase. Leading up the 2007 Global Financial Crisis (“GFC”), it was becoming a huge problem.

I was so concerned about the issue that I visited the offices of the Ecclesiastical Insurance in the UK. At the time of  my visit, I learnt that claims by churches due to theft of metal have risen dramatically. In 2003, there were just 10 claims. Since 2007, there have been 7,500 claims at a cost of an estimated £23m.
Losses in Australia and New Zealand were likewise on the increase. It was not just the cost of the metal but the damage done by the theives or damage caused by running taps, loss of communications, and the like.
After looking at ways to reduce the losses, the problem dissipated due to the GFC and the dramatic fall in commodity prices including the price of metals. Claims slowed down considerably as a result. It has all started to get serious again. In Switzerland, theives are even stealling brass cow bells. Visibility is poor in the hills and the cows wear the bells so they can hear the others and stay close together. The problem is that thieves have little trouble tracking the cows down as the bell rings every time they move and hundreds have been stolen. These thefts are one of the more bizarre examples of the soaring scrap metal thefts currently sweeping countries driven by the once again high global prices for metals.
As such, I have set out below a few largely common sense low-cost options, whilst others involve the use of more high-tech solutions at a greater cost that I learned on my visit to the insurer and from my own experience.
  • Make theft more difficult by removing any easy access onto building roofs, such as dumpsters or wheelie bins and tall trees located near to the building. (Approvals may be necessary from the  local authority.)
  • Store ladders in a secure place. This is particularly important when building works involving the use of scaffolding are taking place. (Insurers should be advised in advance of any building work being  undertaken. Non-disclosure of this material fact may well affect the  insurance cover.
  • Keep any gates locked and restrict vehicular access to the site.
  • Remove any easy means of transporting stolen goods, such as wheelbarrows and wheelie bins, to a secure place.
  • Maximise surveillance levels, including cutting  back tall trees and vegetation which could otherwise provide a screen to hide criminal activities.
  • Carry out regular checks of roofs so any theft of roofing materials is discovered before it rains and water enters the building
    causing further damage.
  • Encourage members of the local community to keep a vigilant eye on the building and to report any suspicious activity, particularly the unexpected arrival of workmen at the property,  immediately to the police.
  • Display a warning notice asking members of the  public to call the police if they see vans or workmen around the building between 6pm and 8am (or non-business/building hours) as they’re probably stealing the lead roof!
  • Apply anti-climb paint to drain pipes and roof guttering to restrict access to roofing. The paint should not be applied below a height of 2 metres and warning notices, highlighting its use, should be prominently displayed.
  • Protect the lower section of lightning conductor ribbons using a metal cage or sheath securely fixed to the building fabric.
  • Consider installing security lighting, particularly at roof-level where metal roof coverings are present. (Please double check if consent is required to do this with the local authority.)
  • Consider installing a Closed Circuit Television  (“CCTV”) system with adequate monitoring and recording and display prominent warning notices around the premises or building site.

One last piece of advice; thieves often return and steal the materials delivered to resinstate the first loss or wait till it is replaced and repeat the theft. While it is better to increase security before any loss, it should be installed before any replacement is done.

3 responses to “Metal Theft on the Rise”

  1. […] On the issue of Theft of Metals (5th February 2012) http://www.allanmanning.com/?p=484 […]

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  3. f2p mmo says:

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