It’s easy to consider your bricks-and-mortar premises as being just that, but actually most buildings contain another vital material – metal. Whilst it might be just part of the building to you, someone interested in a little recycling of the criminal kind, can quickly and easily remove the metal in and on your premises. So what can you do about it?
Learn the Facts
Metal theft, defined by the Home Office as “thefts of items for the value of their constituent metals” is a growing crime, which falls within the criminal classifications of burglary and theft. According to Home Office statistics, based on metal theft offences in England and Wales, 61,349 metal thefts were recorded by police between April 2012 and March 2013, justifying concern about increasing incidences of metal theft, the driver behind a Home Office push for legislation to tighten the inadequate and outdated Scrap Metal Dealers Act of 1964.
Learn Why this Crime Pays
Acknowledging metal theft as “a fast growing acquisitive crime with over 7,000 police reported crimes a month” Lord Henley’s legislation, proposed in 2012, aims to remove the biggest motivation behind metal theft – cold, hard cash – by prohibiting anonymous sales of metal for cash. Additionally, the new legislation makes scrap metal dealers more accountable for any involvement (unwitting or not) with metal theft by increasing the penalties within the existing act.
Learn what they’re After
However, on-going legislation isn’t enough to currently buck this growing trend. In an economic climate which sees many individuals with a downturn in cash flow but an upturn of metal prices (the cash value of many metals has steadily increased since the start of the Millennium) thieves target any items containing saleable metal: air conditioning units with copper tubing; palladium in catalytic converters; roofing lead; copper from cables, you name it. These desirables, classified by the police in two ways, include, but aren’t limited to:
- Infrastructure-related items: these directly impact the functioning infrastructure of your premises or machinery, including cabling and tubing for water, electricity, heating and other services; roofing lead; catalytic converters and manhole covers. Another infrastructural example is railway cabling, the highly publicised theft of which presents major problems for the UK’s railway companies – and their passengers.
- Non-Infrastructure-related items: these don’t affect your building, but may affect your business: metal gates; redundant metal; plaques and statues; boat propellers; even steel baking trays from a bakery, for example.
Learn About Your Locality
So how can Home Office interest and intervention in metal theft help you protect your premises? By monitoring this growing crime, the HO provides statistics which could enable you to identify the extent of the problem in your locality. For example, those most recent statistics indicate Cleveland, Durham, Lancashire, South Yorkshire, the City of London, Kent and Gwent as having a high prevalence of metal theft, whilst West Yorkshire, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire are not far behind. This knowledge enables you to:
- Take preventative measures.
- Check your buildings and contents insurance policies to ensure you have adequate cover and if necessary, update your insurance if you feel your business is high-risk for metal theft.
- Double-check the small print of all policies to ensure you’re not inadvertently invalidating your cover, for example by having scaffolding up for building works (your insurance company should be informed of this).
Learn About Prevention
Then what can you physically do to prevent costly, inconvenient metal theft from your business premises?
- Check the crime prevention pages of your local county police service website. Most of these now offer standard metal theft prevention advice based on how metal thieves operate in your area, so this information is likely to be relevant, as well as useful.
- Remove anything which thieves can use to gain access: ladders; water butts; outside furniture; tall trees (although check council rules about this).
- Fit a lockable, gated access to maintain security. If shared access makes this difficult, see if other business or property owners who share the access know the risks and will share the costs, to improve their own security too.
- Install warning notices requesting the public to use the police 101 hotline number to report any suspicious activity.
- Consult with your local council and / or a reputable security company about using additional measures such as anti-climb paint and roof lighting, for security.
- Mark your property so that it can be identified as stolen if thieves take it.
By learning all you can about preventing metal theft, you’ll have what it takes to minimise risk to your property and business, your insurance premiums and the local crime rate. For more ways to protect your premises against metal theft visit Safe Site Facilities and enquire about one of the many purpose built security products.
Article written by Alex Murray, Community Co-ordinator for Safe Site Facilities