Metal theft is estimated to be costing UK businesses £770m per year, with a total cost to the economy of over £1 billion a year*. With more than an estimated 1,000 offences taking place every week Insurers are increasingly concerned at the escalating level of losses arising from metal theft, particularly as claims are starting to exceed  £1million when associated damage is included.

The size of the problem

Duncan Sutcliffe, Director at Sutcliffe & Co, comments, “Criminals, both organised and opportunistic, see metal theft as easy pickings and with no specific geographic area or particular type of property being targeted, it is a very difficult area police.”

Insurers estimate that 75% of the cost of a typical metal theft claim is associated damage caused to the building, which will usually far outweigh the value of the stolen metal. Vital services are often disabled and there can be property owners’ liability issues if premises are rendered unsafe. Innocent people’s lives are also threatened by blasts with pipes connected to gas meters being torn out.

Duncan continues, “Figures show that large scale metal theft occurs predominantly in unoccupied buildings, with criminals showing no concern for how long the building has been unoccupied. It is therefore crucial that when a building lies empty for any length of time, managing agents and/or building owners need to ensure that a building is professionally “put to sleep” and ensure the provision of all the necessary security measures.”

What can our clients do about Metal Theft?

It’s possible to help protect properties from metal thieves. “Where empty buildings are concerned, it’s becoming a major problem alongside that of arson. We are taking active measures to make all our property owner clients aware of this growing problem and helping them to reduce the risk of a claim,” adds Duncan.

Every situation is different but, in principle, when protecting an unoccupied building from the devastating effects of a metal theft attack, we recommend the following tailored approach.

  • Physical protection – such as the use of adequate locks and bolts on doors, windows and other openings, steel lining doors and frames, installing barbed or razor wire along roof edges or anti-climb paint on roofs and downpipes.
  • Human surveillance – presence of staff on site or professional manned guarding using an approved guarding company is valuable in many cases.
  • Electronic detection – intruder alarms fitted with fully monitored remote signalling are often required and monitored CCTV systems are beneficial. A less expensive option of battery operated wireless alarms can also be effective in some circumstances.
  • Removing or reducing the attraction – remove cables and other parts of the building’s services that have a high metal content, or reduce the amount of metal from within the fabric of the building, such as metal roofing and flashing and replace with coated steel sheets for example.
  • Recover – to assist with the recovery of stolen metal, consider using non-drying forensic gels or greases as these transfer and stick to thieves handling marked goods, and always take photographs of historic items as they can assist in restoration or establishing values.
  • Neighbourly support – if buildings can be seen by nearby occupied property, alert the occupants to the increasing risk of theft of metals alongside advice that you are not expecting contractors to be working on the site and ask that they alert the police should they see anyone in the building.

“It is vital that commercial property owners take proactive measures and engage their managing agents and security providers, as well as their insurance brokers, as early as possible so that the right level and type of protection is put in place,” summarises Duncan.

* Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/9036121/Curbs-on-scrap-metal-dealers-to-be-announced-to-stop-theft-epidemic.html

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