Stolen trains, pilfered drainpipes and kidnapped statues: metal theft is booming in the United Kingdom and it’s costing insurers dearly. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) estimated that every week, there are roughly 1,000 incidents of metal theft, costing insurers £1 million in claims each week.
“Metal thieves are putting lives at risk, causing expensive damage and massive disruption. From delayed train journeys to loss of telephone and internet connections, to damaged churches, most people are affected by this crime,” said Nick Starling, ABI’s Director of General Insurance.
The ABI says that every week. Nearly 300 tonnes of metal is stolen throughout the UK – the equivalent weight of 300 cars. The theft of metal is costing the UK economy £15 million in replacing stolen metal, disruption and lost business. Each week, it says metal thefts result in 117 hours delay in train services and no metal source is off-limits: 23 churches are attacked by metal thieves each week.
High metal prices, the widespread accessibility of metals such as copper and lead, and difficulties in identifying and recovering stolen metals are the main reasons for the continued rise in metal thefts.
Thieves are thinking outside of the box when it comes to theft. The ABI points to the following examples of the wide range of metal thefts:
- Thieves stole a train with two trucks of scrap metal, driving it down the line and emptying the metal into trucks at the track side.
- Drain covers in Birmingham are being forensically marked after 950 were stolen in the second half of 2011.
- A hospital in south Wales was forced to cancel operations following the theft of metal cable.
- Operations at Hertfordshire Police headquarters were disrupted following an attempted metal theft.
- A gas explosion which wrecked a row of houses in West Yorkshire has been linked to the theft of copper piping.
- A village near Chester suffered a communications blackout affecting homes, schools and the doctor’s surgery after thieves stole underground telecom cables.
- Lead drainpipes were stolen from Manchester Cathedral, as well as lead from the roof. The damage cost £30,000 to repair.
- A sculpture valued at £500,000 was stolen by suspected scrap metal thieves from a park in south London.
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