Metal Theft

Metal Theft

According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), the victims of the UK’s metal theft crime are now being paid out over £1 million every week by insurers.  From train cables to sculptures, the theft of metal is estimated to be costing the UK economy £220 million a year. Every week it is thought that there are 1,000 incidents of theft metal.
 
Metal theft shows that every week :
An estimated 1,000 metal thefts occur – double the number of five years ago
Nearly 300 tonnes of metal is stolen – the weight equivalent of 300 cars.
Insurers are paying out over £1 million to customers who have had metal stolen.
Metal thefts result in 117 hours delay in train services
23 churches are attacked by metal thieves.
 
High metal prices, the widespread accessibility of metals such as copper and lead, and difficulties in identifying and recovering stolen metals are the main reasons for the continued rise in metal thefts.
 
Nick Starling, the ABI’s Director of General Insurance, said:
 
“Metal thieves are putting lives at risk, causing expensive damage and massive disruption. From delayed train journeys to loss of telephone and internet connections, to damaged churches, most people are affected by this crime.
 
“We support Government action to make it harder to sell on stolen metal and tougher penalties for offenders. Insurers have a key role to play, not only compensating those insured, but in helping their customers take sensible security measures to reduce this ever- present threat. This is why we are working with the Government to crackdown on metal thefts”.

  • Case Studies
  • News
  • Help & Advice
  • FAQ's

 Metal Theft affects us all as the Case Studies below illustrate.

  • Network Rail

    Metal theft is increasingly an issue for business and politicians across Scotland.  Nowhere is the issue of metal theft more keenly felt than in the rail sector.

    The most common problem is the theft of cable and this has a significant impact on services as it can cause widespread delays across the network. Copper  is a magnet for cable thieves. Fencing is also stolen and there is real concern that this could lead to dangers for children and others who are not aware of the risks.
     
    Network Rail is taking a number of steps including the use of forensic technology and is working closely with British Transport Police and other authorities to highlight and combat the problem.

  • Scottish Fire and Rescue Service

    Metal theft is taken incredibly seriously by the Fire Service.  It risk lives when fighting fires and threatens the economic well-being of businesses and communities across Scotland.

    We spoke to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service  to better understand the issues and why joint working is an important part of solving this difficult problem.

  • BT

     

    BT's infrastructure is a backbone of business connecting companies and communities and providing vital data communications that allow work to be done.  
     
    General Manager Luke Beeson talks about the very real issues posed by metal theft and the steps BT is taking to reduce them.

  • British Transport Police

    Chief Superintendent John McBride talks about the impact of metal theft on Scotland's railway network and the very real risks it poses for passengers, law enforcement officers and local communities.

  • The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency

    Calum MacDonald, SEPA's Director of Operations explains both the environmental impact of Metal Theft and SEPA's direct enforcement action to tackle this criminal behaviour.

     

  • Scottish Power

    Scottish Power is a leading energy provider whose vast network provides essential power to homes and businesses, schools and hospitals.

    Their extensive infrastructure is a target for metal thieves creating hazards not only for trespassers in high voltage installations, but also crippling business, healthcare and homes.

Churches present special insurance problems. 

Arson and Metal theft are perennial problems for partially occupied buildings. Full article here. 

ITV Report on Metal Theft in Lochmaben and Operation Scandium (Video)

A small news report on how metal theft is affecting a school in the south of Scotland and how Operation Scandium is combatting this. Click here to view.

Suspects wanted for questioning in connection with Brackley scrap metal theft

The police want to speak with the two men pictured in the CCTV images in connection with the theft of scrap metal in Brackley.... read more.

Police target metal thieves in Fife day of action

Fife became the frontline in Scotland’s war against metal thieves. Full article here.

Former Port Arthur employee sentenced to probation for theft

Port Arthur's former assistant water utilities director is beginning his probation sentence Monday after pleading guilty to theft by a public servant. Read more.

Police target metal thieves in Fife day of action

To read more about Fife becoming the frontline in Scotland’s war against metal thieves, click here. 

BMRA calls for enforcement of scrap metal act

The British Metals Recycling Association has called for tougher enforcement of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act after having raised concerns over the increasing use of cash by some illegal operators.

Scrap metal dealers can no longer pay cash for scrap in England

According to the BMRA, which made the comments in response to a Home Office review of the SMDA, "There is a clear correlation between interventions and effective enforcement the legislation, and the number of recorded metal theft offences”.

The Scrap Metal Dealers Act came into effect in late 2013, and outlawed the payment of cash for scrap metal by recyclers. The law also requires every scrap metal dealer responsible for obtaining a licence to trade from their local authority.

BMRA has said that it strongly supports the retention of the Act, but has raised concerns that incidences of metal theft could rise unless effective enforcement of the legislation is carried out.

In a statement, the BMRA said: “Without effective enforcement of the SMDA, metal theft will continue to blight the UK’s infrastructure and cultural assets, as the price of metal and the demand increase. Poor enforcement creates an uneven playing field and harms legitimate businesses. Supporting the legitimate scrap metal industry ensures the disposal outlets for stolen metal are reduced and illegal operators are shut down.”

Lochmaben Primary School was once again the victim of metal crime

The school was targeted by individuals who attempted to steal lead from the roof. Unfortunately this is the 7th time this school has been the victim of this type of theft.

Jim Scott, Metal Theft Lead at the Scottish Business Resilience Centre said:

On this occasion the thieves were disturbed by local police officers and the lead was recovered although damage was caused to the roof of the building. These thefts have a significant cost to the local authorities who have to repair the damage and replace the lead. The cost can be significantly more if the theft is not discovered quickly as water damage may cause further damage to equipment within classrooms that become exposed.


Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015 – Guidance on the provisions for Metal Dealers and Itinerant Metal Dealers

The Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015 received Royal Assent on 4 August 2015. The majority of the provisions relating to metal dealers and itinerant metal dealers come into force on 1 September 2016.

The Scottish Government has now published a guidance document on the provisions to assist metal dealers, itinerant metal dealers, licensing authorities and other enforcement agencies.

The guidance can be viewed at: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/03/1844
 

Impact metal theft has had on the Scottish Construction Industry over the last two years.

Since the start of 2015 there have been over 101 metal thefts from construction sites reported to Police Scotland with a direct cost to the industry  of approximately £370,000 this is only the direct cost with fines/delays etc. not taken into account ( one metal theft cost the construction company £100,000 due to site not being completed on time) .

Chris MacLeod, Security Advisor at Balfour Beatty stated that;

‘Metal theft from a construction site can have a major impact on a project, both financially and reputationally.  Depending on how critical the material stolen is such as custom-built fittings or machinery could affect project completion timelines and profitability.  Contractors should carry out security assessments for their project, if there is any vulnerability’s or threats identified then appropriate countermeasures should be implemented to mitigate the risk, and if any incident does occur report it to the police immediately’.   

All the below tables include data relating to all thefts from construction premises during 2016 to date (up to 31/08/2016).

 

 

Number of Thefts

Total Value Stolen

Edinburgh City

15

£29,299

Greater Glasgow

14

£70,819

Lanarkshire

14

£15,550

Forth Valley

13

£7,655

Lothians and Scottish Borders

12

£4,897

Fife

9

£4,611

Ayrshire

9

£2,380

Aberdeenshire

6

£6,350

Tayside

3

£3,350

Highlands and Islands

3

£715

Renfrewshire and Inverclyde

1

£1,000

Dumfries and Galloway

1

£750

Argyll and West Dunbartonshire

0

£0

                                                                                                    

Metal Type

Number of Thefts

Copper

40

Piping

18

Cable

13

Wiring

4

Unknown

2

Boilers/Tanks

2

Fittings

1

Lead

26

Flashing

21

Piping

2

Unknown

1

Cable

1

Battery

1

Unknown

25

Boilers/Tanks

13

Unknown

3

Scaffolding

3

Bars

1

Sign

1

Cable

1

Wiring

1

Fencing/Gates

1

Plate

1

Steel

5

Scaffolding

1

Boilers/Tanks

1

Tank

1

Casing

1

Plate

1

Aluminium

4

Cable

2

Unknown

1

Ladders

1

 

 

Total

100

 

Metal Type

Total Value Stolen

Copper

£58,395

Lead

£31,384

Aluminium

£16,565

Steel

£3,601

 

 

 

The SBRC would like to thank Andrew Stevenson (BTP) for his assistance in producing the analytical input. 

If you have any enquiries on this subject or anything metal theft related please e-mail [email protected] or contact the SBRC on  01786 447 441

Why should I care about metal theft?

Metal theft affects:

  • YOUR telecommunications
  • YOUR transport
  • YOUR home, public services or worship
  • YOUR safety 

Thieves will steal:

  • Rail, power and communications cables
  • Railings and safety barriers
  • Lead roofing
  • Gates and fencing
  • Road signs
  • Manhole covers

…even lengths of electricity pylon

 

Keep your eyes open

If you see something suspicious, for example:

  • Unmarked vans removing cabling
  • ‘Workmen’ collecting metal but not wearing reflective vests

Then contact the police.

  • Protecting your home
    • Be a good neighbour, and encourage your neighbours to watch out for each other too
    • Put up posters asking neighbours to call the police if they see anything suspicious, such as people ‘working’ evenings or weekends in buildings which are normally empty.
    • Write a letter and post it through local doors, highlighting the crimes you are worried about (eg theft of lead from your roof).
    • The letter should include your personal contact details, plus contact details for the police and Crimestoppers
    • Note the appearance and registration of any unfamiliar vehicles in your area. This information
    • could be helpful to police if an incident takes place.
    • Consider joining a Neighbourhood/Business/Farm Watch scheme. Ask your local police station for details of schemes in your area or visit the Neighbourhood Watch Scotland website.
  • Protecting your business
    • Ask staff to be on the lookout: if they see ‘work’ being undertaken on the premises which seems fishy, encourage them to check with other staff about whether it’s been authorised. If it hasn’t, they should call the police.
    • Put up signs and posters encouraging staff and public to be watchful
    • Shopping trolleys, door furniture, plaques and any other easily transported metal objects are particularly tempting to thieves.
    • Use coin release trolleys. If possible, lock the trolleys inside the shop when closed.
    • Consider repositioning name plaques where they can’t easily be unscrewed and stolen.
    • Use coach bolts or non-return screws on door furniture.

Why metal theft?
Over recent years the price of metal has risen considerably driven by
various global economies and increased demand. Although the price has fluctuated
considerably the increase in the value of copper has led to a rise in metal theft.
 
What metals are being stolen?
No metal is currently immune to being stolen, but a combination of
value, demand, quantity, uses and ease of theft makes some metals
more prone to being targeted than others.
 
Who are committing these offences?
There is no particular profile of persons responsible for committing
these offences. Persons involved range from the opportunist thief
looking to fund other criminal related activity, through to well
organised crime groups who meticulously plan thefts and who have
access to Plant and machinery capable of carrying out large scale
thefts. These persons are also able to conceal materials on private
land where they can spend time removing the material identity i.e.
cable sheathing or cut metals into smaller sections. There is also
evidence and intelligence to suggest that some offences are
committed, or facilitated, by workers within the industry.
 
Where is metal being stolen from?
Locations being targeted by offenders include:
 
• Building Sites
• Hospitals and schools
• Residential properties
• Scrap yards
• Storage yards, depots, builders’ yards and merchants
• Stately homes and other historical sites
• Cemeteries, public memorials and works of art
• Farms
• Faith buildings
• Railway lines and infrastructure
• Electricity high voltage sub-stations and pylons
• Telecommunication systems and communication masts
• Water and sewage works
• Firefighting facilities in multi storey flats
• Licensed Bars, Clubs, Public Houses & Restaurants
 
It should be noted that wherever there is metal in use or available, there is a risk of it been stolen.
 
What is the impact?
Dependent upon the victim/location of the theft, the impact can vary.
 
Faith buildings
Faith buildings tend to be targeted for the lead on their roofs which is used to prevent water incursion during poor weather. Many faithbbuildings nationally have been raising funds for structural repairs andbthe theft of lead has exacerbated that problem. Removing the lead from a roof can allow water to leak in and damage roof timbers creating more problems for the authorities.
 
Storage yards, depots, etc.
Most projects, particularly large ones, require a large amount of equipment and materials and therefore storage areas are necessary.  If the materials or plant equipment required for the work are stolen from these sites then delays and additional costs can be incurred.
 
Water and sewage works
Providing clean water and removing sewage waste is something we all take for granted however, this service can be interrupted if equipment used for cleansing and sterilising water is taken out of use due to the damage or theft of electrical equipment.
 
Electricity substations and pylons
If the supply of electricity is interrupted due to metal theft the effects can be widespread. For domestic customers a lack of electricity could mean limited access to lighting, heating, and communications. If older or infirm persons are caught up in such a power cut the consequences could be serious.  For industry a power cut will affect production and reduce output.  The length of time the industry is out of action can adversely affect thelocal, regional or national economy.
 
Telecommunications systems
As with water and electricity, telecommunications are a vital element of today’s society, without which routine and emergency calls cannot be made. The most serious impact of communication failure would be felt by frontline emergency services who would be unable to receive communications from the public. Additionally, routine domestic and business calls could not be made thereby affecting industry and everyday life, internet access, and in extreme cases whole communities becoming isolated, are just some of the impact cable theft can have.
 
Hospitals/ schools
Not only would domestic and industrial applications suffer if power, telecommunications or water supplies were disrupted by metal theft, but other vital parts of the community could suffer as well. Schools may be forced to close if they have no power and hospitals forced to deal differently with both emergency and non-emergency cases (though hospitals will have contingency plans in place to deal with such incidents).
 
Cemeteries, public memorials and works of art
Recently there has been a spate of thefts from war memorials of the plaques listing those who died serving their country. These thefts are upsetting to the community and to the relatives of those listed on the memorial. Sculptures and other metal works of art are also at risk, and these can have a cultural value far in excess of the scrap value.
 
Residential properties
There have been thefts of external copper piping from houses, including gas pipes – the effects and dangers of which could be devastating.
 
Building Sites
Building Sites are vulnerable both from external and internal theft. Copper cable, pipes and other metals may be stolen from compounds before it is even used. When site security is compromised, thefts from incomplete buildings can set projects back causing reputational damage to companies.
 
Firefighting facilities in multi storey flats
Multistorey flats have systems fitted to help firefighters tackle fires in upper floors. This equipment can be subject to metal theft and this may leave occupants and firefighters at risk in the event of fire. Additional resources need to be dedicated to these buildings until repairs can be effected.
 
Railway lines and infrastructure
Cable on the railway is used for power and signalling. The theft of “live” cable can prevent trains from running. When the power supply for rolling stock is interrupted trains are unable to operate.  Additionally, if signalling cable is stolen all signals will fail and services will be disrupted. Newly laid but not yet operational cable is also a target and whilst stealing it has no adverse effects on the train service, it can cause problems if the cable has been laid as part of planned upgrade or engineering work by delaying the project and adding significantly to the costs. There has been at least one occasion where a vehicle used by a thief has been hit by a train. The consequences, whilst not serious on that occasion, could have been disastrous if the train had been derailed.
The Brewing Industry
Brewers suffer annual losses, collectively amounting to many millions of pounds, from the theft of kegs, casks (beer barrels) and dispense gas cylinders.  The effects of this loss can be felt throughout the whole of the supply chain from the breweries, to the wholesalers & pubs and right down to the price of a pint at the bar.  
 
Other locations
Whilst the effects of metal theft from locations such as historical sites, farms and scrap yards are not as widely felt, they can cause issues such as loss of income or inability to promote their work in the event that a theft of historical or religious value takes place. One high profile case involved the theft of the Henry Moore sculpture “A reclining figure” in 2005, worth at least £3million
 
General issues
As well as the specific circumstances mentioned above, cable theft or damage can interrupt other aspects of our lives:
 
• Sporting events could be disrupted due to power failure
• Traffic management systems may go down causing
• congestion to build up
• concerts may be interrupted or cancelled
• Air travel could be disrupted
• Postal distribution networks could be affected
• Shops and shopping centres may have to close if power or
• telecommunications go down.
 
Finally, it is necessary to consider the dangers that stealing high voltage copper wire, as well as trespassing on railways or in substations, can pose to the offenders committing such offences. Individuals have been electrocuted, burnt and injured or killed whilst in the process of stealing or attempting to steal cable or metal from areas which are inherently dangerous locations. 
 
What can you do?
If you suspect or see incidents of metal theft you can call your local Police station or in an emergency call 999.
 
If you have information relating to metal theft and don’t wish to give your details you can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 where your anonymity can be maintained. You can also submit information here

  • The Metal Theft Problem

    From trains to drains - Metal theft crime wave now costing over £1 million every week

    The victims of the UK’s metal theft crime wave are now being paid out over £1 million every week by insurers according to the Association of British Insurers. From train cables to sculptures, the theft of metal is estimated to be costing the UK economy £220 million a year. Every week it is thought that there are 1,000 incidents of theft metal. 
     

    Metal theft shows that every week :

    • An estimated 1,000 metal thefts occur – double the number of five years ago
    • Nearly 300 tonnes of metal is stolen – the weight equivalent of 300 cars.
    • Insurers are paying out over £1 million to customers who have had metal stolen.
    • Metal thefts result in 117 hours delay in train services
    • 23 churches are attacked by metal thieves.

    High metal prices, the widespread accessibility of metals such as copper and lead, and difficulties in identifying and recovering stolen metals are the main reasons for the continued rise in metal thefts. 

    Nick Starling, the ABI’s Director of General Insurance, said: 

    “Metal thieves are putting lives at risk, causing expensive damage and massive disruption. From delayed train journeys to loss of telephone and internet connections, to damaged churches, most people are affected by this crime. 

    “We support Government action to make it harder to sell on stolen metal and tougher penalties for offenders. Insurers have a key role to play, not only compensating those insured, but in helping their customers take sensible security measures to reduce this ever- present threat. This is why we are working with the Government to crackdown on metal thefts”.


    Examples of the wide range and impact of metal thefts include:
     

    • From train cables to sculptures, the theft of metal is estimated to be costing the UK economy £220 million a year
    • One fatality within the Lanarkshire area directly linked to metal theft
    • Unoccupied building in Glasgow stripped of all cabling and copper pipes. Cost to replace the copper estimated at £100,000
    • Theft of lead from a school in Glasgow resulted in serious flooding and damage to equipment. Cost of repair  estimated at £135,000
    • 32 dry risers stolen from a high rise building within the Cumbernauld area. This is a major concern for Scottish  Fire and Rescue in the event of a fire within this building
    • Overall increase in Scotland in the amount of thefts. One area has seen an increase of 223%
    • Theft of 4 meters of cable from an electrical substation resulted in four separate house fires within the Greenock area

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