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The High Cost of Metal Theft

May 4th, 2011 | by admin admin | in Security Advice |    1   comments

Thieves strip copper wiring and cause $ 2.7 million in damage to a B.C. Hydro submarine cable. 650 Maple Ridge homes lose phone service when thieves cut Telus cables from their poles. A bronze statue disappears from Queen Elizabeth Park, along with several plaques. Then it reappears in Aldergrove. (Read full stories here, here, and here.)

Rising commodity prices in recent years have led to more -- and more bizarre -- metal thefts across the globe. From utility and telephone lines to children’s playground equipment and grave markers – nothing is sacred. Telus suffered 180 cases of wire theft in the Lower Mainland from January to Octoberof 2010. At $ 50,000 per incident, the costs add up. Forty per cent of those cases occurred in Langley Township. Add that to more than $ 200,000 spent replacing copper wire stripped from street lights, and that municipality is lobbying hard for tougher rules governing scrap metal recycling. (See Langley Advance article.)

Sooner or later, consumers and taxpayers bear the costs of metal theft. And not just in dollars. Damaged lighting, electrical and other equipment can lead to injuries and fatalities. What can your business or workplace do to prevent this latest property crime?

The U.S. Department of Justice has produced a comprehensive guide to understanding and preventing metal theft. The guide details common targets: plumbing fixtures, copper wiring and cables, air conditioners, vehicle parts, aluminum siding, gutters and roofs with copper flashing, manhole covers and sewer grates.

If you have metal items on your property, you need to take steps to secure them:

  • Cage air conditioners, catalytic converters and other popular targets.
  • Improve lighting, prune shrubs and reduce clutter to ensure clear sight lines. No thief wants to be seen at work.
  • Etch vehicle identification numbers on catalytic converters and third-row seats of SUVs and minivans.
  • Consider newer identification technologies, such as electroplating ID codes that can only be viewed under UV light or dipping wires and cables in a coded liquid which can’t be burned off.
  • Post clear warning signs about electrical hazards and identification measures.
  • Install cut-resistant perimeter fencing.

And upgrade your security system. In addition to security lighting and alarm systems, experts recommend sophisticated video surveillance systems and for larger premises, security patrols after business hours. Analytics-enabled cameras can automatically monitor multiple access points for security threats. Remote guarding services combined with video surveillance can conduct scheduled video tours of your premises, like a virtual security patrol.

By the time police recover your valuables from a scrap metal dealer, you probably won’t want them back. Protect your metal articles before they get stolen and damaged.

More information on remote guarding and video surveillance from Radius Security.

Author: Susanna Chu

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