The demand for raw materials, especially metals for industry in the emerging BRIC economies of Brazil, Russia, India and in particularly China, coupled with a recession in the UK has created a massive nationwide crime wave of metal theft that is costing UK insurance companies millions of pounds per week, according to a press release from the ABI (Association of British Insurers).
All types of metal are being stolen and each theft creates a series of public hazards and property damage.
Popular theft includes the lead from off of church roofs, cast iron drain and manhole covers from the streets, railway track and copper cabling from permanent way and sidings, all types of electrical cabling from business premises or unoccupied buildings. Nowhere is immune to the theft and reports have been made of damage from all corners of the country.
A spokesman for the ABI said that metal theft had doubled in the UK in the past five years with now around 1,000 reported police and insurance claim incidents each week.
The disruption the crime causes is estimated to cost the UK economy about £770m each year. Much of this is paid out in claims for business interruption.
The ABI report said metal theft was an “ever-present threat” and it will meet the UK Government and British Transport Police to debate the issue.
Nick Starling, the ABI’s director of general insurance, said: “Metal thieves are putting lives at risk, causing expensive damage and massive disruption. “This is why we are working with the Government to crack down on metal thefts”.
Example of recent thefts include a range of attacks from the small to the large-scale organised crime gangs.
A £500,000 sculpture was stolen from a park in London by a few individuals while a large gang stole a train with two trucks of scrap metal, driving it down the line and emptying the metal into lorries at the track-side before making off.
The ABI support legal action which will make it harder to resell stolen metal and much tougher penalties for offenders and are calling for scrap dealers and metal recycling industry, which is is worth an estimated £5.6bn per annum and employs 8,000 people in the UK, to be registered and cash payments to be banned.
Chris Coates of UK Commercial Ltd insurance brokers warns businesses, especially those at risk to take extra precautions to prevent theft and to minimize any disruption caused which often amounts to the biggest loss.
“All businesses large and small should carry out their own internal risk assessment as to the likelihood of suffering from a metal theft crime.”
“The theft of a roll of lead cladding from the roof of building housing a computer repair business, could be devastating if it occurred on a wet stormy night. Often extra preventative security measures such as denying access to the roof through for example the application of anti-climb paint, is a simple, effective and cheap method of deterring metal theft.”