Metal Thefts

Rising prices increase metal theft frequency

The global demand for metal remains at an all time high despite recessionary pressure. Copper prices reached £6,200 per tonne in January 2011.  Compared to £1,900 per tonne in 2005, this shows just how much the price has increased. It is not just copper that has seen meteoric price rises, rarer metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium which are all found in the catalytic converters of vehicles, have seen price increases of around 600 per cent in the last few years. This has resulted in the soaring frequency of metal thefts. Since 2006 there has been a 150–200 per cent increase in UK metal thefts which cost £360 million in 2009-10.

Ongoing and day-to-day action

Organised gangs are responsible for many of the thefts and they will target raw materials, work-in-progress and finished goods.  A leading UK insurer revealed the following catalogue of metal theft claims:

  • Metalworkers / engineering companies are being targeted for copper, brass, bronze,      aluminium, titanium and steel
  • Electrical engineers are being targeted for copper wiring
  • Builders merchants are seeing lead and copper wiring being stolen
  • Churches have had numerous incidents of lead being stolen from roofing
  • Unoccupied buildings are being stripped of copper wiring
  • Man hole covers, drain grates and road signs have also been stolen
  • Aluminium demountable flood barriers that were erected to protect a village against      an anticipated flood were stolen

The Police are taking the matter seriously and raised the profile of the problem in July 2010 by having a day of action against metal theft. The campaign saw 21 Police Forces from across the UK led by British Transport Police, raid unlicensed scrap yards and target suspected metal thieves. Today, metal theft remains an ongoing and day-to-day focus for the Police.

What businesses can do to protect themselves

Most insurers are able provide information and advice on the protection of property and metal against theft.  Insurance Brokers can also help in this regard. A layered system of protection is often suggested incorporating some or all of the following:

  • A review of site and building perimeter security
  • Installation of external security lighting
  • Use of secure cages to store metals
  • Installation of intruder alarms with dual path signalling
  • Use of remotely monitored CCTV
  • Use of smoke generating devices
  • Forensic marking e.g. Smart Water
  • Improved security to fork lift trucks, cranes and vehicles

For further information and advice, contact Sentinel Corporate Risk on 01772 789455.