3 Simple and Proactive Ways Operators Can Help Stop Metal Theft

by Anne Staley

| Published on November 4, 2013

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Scrap metal theft is a very serious crime. Thieves see it as an easy way to make some quick bucks. Items containing aluminum, brass, bronze, zinc and copper, the most coveted metal in this illegal trade, are pilfered from construction and industrial sites, vacant commercial and residential buildings and sold to junk yards for a hefty profit.

Thieves steal everything from gutters, pipes, window frames, coils, electric cables, HVAC systems, manhole covers and sewer grates — basically anything that’s within easy reach and can be tampered with. Even bronze markers from cemeteries and statues from museums aren’t immune to theft.

Watch out for Metal Thieves

Metal thieves come up with unique ways to steal metal. They could act as contractors and do away with stuff which contains copper, claiming to renovate it.

They keep an eye out for old cars that have been left unattended for a long time or houses and buildings which seem to be vacant. Some are desperate enough to steal anything that could be left outside in your yard, from spools of wire to any metal appliances that you may have discarded.

Why Steal Scrap Metal?

Why is metal theft so common?

Asian countries such as India and China have a high demand for these metals, which makes stealing metal a very lucrative deal for those wishing to earn easy money. Scrap metal may also be stolen by drug addicts, as well as anyone in desperate need of fast money.

With the price of commodities set to increase in this inflation-rich age, theft in scrap metal will likely continue to rise. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), metal thefts, especially copper thefts are slowly and surely on the rise since the past couple of years.

Ways to Stop Metal Theft

To help stop this crime, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. (ISRI) recommends following precautionary procedures that will help business owners and scrap dealers, who are the most common victims of scrap metal theft.

  1. Untitled-1Keep an inventory of your items, preferably with photos. This might come in handy in case of a theft when you contact the police and your insurance company.

  2. Secure your facility and scrap yard with deadbolts and locks. Install surveillance cameras and motion detectors for increased safety and install appropriate lighting whenever it’s too dark. Remove any items that might provide easy access to your facility such as trees, ladders or dumpsters piled with garbage.

  3. Liaise with local law enforcement agencies and develop a professional relationship with them. Ask them what measures to take to prevent metal theft at your site and what to do if you notice any unscrupulous activity. Incidents of metal theft have reduced considerably when local law enforcement agencies have stepped in. For instance, dealers involved in metal recycling in Mobile, Alabama; Connecticut; Ohio; and Marion County, Florida have seen a decrease in metal theft, thanks to the liaison between businesses and police.

If a scrap metal theft does occur, contact the police immediately. Avoid touching anything at the site where the theft occurred to preserve evidence such as fingerprints and shoe and tire marks. Contacting the police is of prime importance, as they can then alert the other scrap dealers in the vicinity and nearby towns.

Stealing scrap metal is a notorious crime, so go all out and do your best to prevent it from happening to you and others around you.

About the author: Anne Staley is a volunteer environmental social worker who recently worked on a project about recycling scrap metal. During the project, she discovered the extent of the problem of scrap metal theft and the difficulties it causes.

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