Copper Theft: How to turn $5,000 into $25

“Metal theft is a ”lucrative and attractive venture for thieves” according to the Australian Institute of Criminology, while the federal government has estimated the annual cost of the crime at $100 million”.  Read more.

With copper prices rising more than 300% since 2008 and copper recyclers paying around $5 per kilo in a largely unregulated scrap metal industry, copper theft in Australia is on the rise. While any site with unsecured fixtures or plant and equipment is vulnerable, construction sites and vacant buildings are most at risk with thieves targeting air-conditioning units, exposed copper piping and cables. In addition to damaging the property, vital services can be interrupted if utility boxes, power or water services are targeted.
This is a real issue for our church as just a few weeks ago copper piping worth thousands of dollars was stolen from three of our very own sites.

Risk Control

Fortunately there are some steps you can take.  Start by identifying copper and other metals of scrap value throughout your buildings – including gutters, lightning conductors, pipes, A/C units, telecommunications and power cables – then consider the likelihood of theft of these items and what you can do to prevent it.

One way to deter copper theft is to paint all copper components black, as this gives the appearance of worthless plastic conduit that is not worth stealing. An extra measure could be to fence off areas that contain copper items. It is little comfort that thousands of dollars’ worth of air-conditioners may only yield around $25 worth of scrap copper.

Another method could be to install an alarm system with signage to deter potential theft of copper from a property, or to trigger an alarm response should an attempt be made – it is possible for alarms to be generated from heating or cooling units if the equipment stops working or is tampered with. CCTV is another visible deterrent and can be used for alarm verification, identifying the offenders, and assisting in the security response. It is important to keep trees and shrubs around buildings trimmed to improve natural surveillance and where feasible, store ladders inside and secure wheelie bins to prevent roof access. Locking perimeter gates after hours will also help.

It is estimated that approximately 90% of all copper theft takes place during nights or week-ends, so security patrols can be effective.

And don’t forget to monitor and review all risk controls regularly to verify effectiveness or to highlight areas in need of improvement.

If you would like further information on scrap metal theft, please contact us.