On the Beat in Bluffton

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Law enforcement fight surge in scrap metal thefts

Wells County Sheriff Monte Fisher is asking for the public's help to put a stop to a recent surge in scrap metal thefts. He urged anyone who sees suspicious activity in their neighborhoods to call the Wells County Sheriff's Department at 824-3426.

National Insurance also offers the following advice about scrap metal theft:

Wily thieves use a variety of methods to locate and steal metals. Some pose as renovation contractors while stripping copper from vacant homes. Others use a buddy method for stealing empty, stainless steel beer kegs, with one person driving a getaway truck and the other grabbing the kegs. A few resourceful criminals have used Google Earth to identify large amounts of metal (such as spools of wire) stored outdoors.

Regardless of the method, the cost of metal theft to business owners nationwide is staggering. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that losses from copper theft alone cost the U.S. economy about $1 billion a year.

The best defense is to prevent metal theft at the source. Consider these measures to reduce your risk:

  • Install a security camera with video recorder and keep recordings for a sufficient period.
  • Secure all equipment in locked buildings, or in well-lit areas secured by fencing. Better yet, use a perimeter security system with contact alarms or motion detectors, or install a 6-foot perimeter fence with barbed wire at the top (as allowed by local rules, regulations or standards) and gates with locks to avoid theft of common scrap metals, such as copper, nickel, stainless steel and others.
  • Post “No Trespassing” placards around the property or signs indicating the presence of a surveillance or security system to deter thieves. Even with non-active systems, these signs tend to discourage some instances of metal theft.
  • Remove access to buildings and roofs. Eliminate items that allow for easy entry to buildings, such as trees, ladders, scaffolding, dumpsters and accumulated materials such as pallet piles.
  • Secure your building access with deadbolts, and door and window locks.
  • Trim or remove shrubbery or other landscaping that allows criminals to hide from view on your property.
  • Mark metals with the company’s name using paint, hard-to-remove decals or engraving equipment.
  • Make sure someone is present when supplies such as copper wiring or pipe are delivered at a job site so the materials can be immediately secured.
  • Don’t receive supplies earlier than you need them. The longer metal is onsite and unused, the longer it’s at risk of theft.
  • Develop a relationship with local law enforcement. Ask for their guidance in preventing metal theft at your business and what to do in the event a theft occurs.
  • Increase lighting outside, and protect fixtures (such as AC units) with locked metal cages.
  • Create a master list of all of your equipment and bulk metal (if applicable) and include pictures. Providing the list to your agent and the authorities might help in recovering the items.
  • Talk with your insurance agent. Make sure you have adequate insurance to cover metal theft, and be sure to update your agent as your business changes. For example, if your building becomes partially or fully vacant, your coverage may change without you realizing it.

If a metal theft does occur, call the police immediately so that local recyclers and scrap dealers are alerted. Be sure to preserve the crime scene, including tire tracks, shoe tracks and fingerprints. This evidence could be used to help prosecute the thieves if they are caught.

No comments: