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From trains to drains Metal theft crime wave now costing over 1 million every week


The victims of the UK’s metal theft crime wave are now being paid out over £1 million every week by insurers according to the Association of British Insurers. From train cables to sculptures, the theft of metal is estimated to be costing the UK economy £770 million a year. Every week it is thought that there are 1,000 incidents of theft metal.
What needs to be done to crackdown on metal thefts will be debated tomorrow (Tuesday, 22 May) at an ABI conference involving insurers, the Government and British Transport Police.

The conference comes as the full extent of the metal theft crime wave shows that every week :
• An estimated 1,000 metal thefts occur – double the number of five years ago
• Nearly 300 tonnes of metal is stolen – the weight equivalent of 300 cars.
• Insurers are paying out over £1 million to customers who have had metal stolen.
• The theft of metal costs the UK economy £15 million in replacing stolen metal, disruption and lost business.
• Metal thefts result in 117 hours delay in train services2.
• 23 churches are attacked by metal thieves
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.

Nick Starling, the ABI’s Director of General Insurance, said:

“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.

“We support Government action to make it harder to sell on stolen metal and tougher penalties for offenders. Insurers have a key role to play, not only compensating those insured, but in helping their customers take sensible security measures to reduce this ever- present threat. This is why we are working with the Government to crackdown on metal thefts”.

Examples of the wide range of metal thefts include:
• Thieves stole a train with two trucks of scrap metal, driving it down the line and emptying the metal into lorries 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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Last updated 01/07/2016