You’d be forgiven for thinking that most people have better things to do nowadays than steal metal. But in fact, the rising price of lead and copper in recent years has led to metal thieves across the country targeting buildings such as factories, empty houses, churches, schools and railway stations in order to steal lead from roofs and copper from pipes. Even residential homes have been targeted.
Double the price
The rising value of lead and copper has seen metal theft increase over the last few years. Between 2006 and 2007, the buying price for lead doubled, making it an attractive option for thieves who can sell it to scrap dealers for cash in hand. There’s a serious note to this type of theft though – ripping out copper from the external pipes of commercial buildings or residential properties can be extremely dangerous, as one family from Folkestone discovered. They awoke to the smell of gas after copper was removed from their gas mains – they are lucky, as their house could have exploded while they were sleeping. Some people will not be so lucky though.
It’s normally commercial buildings that are targets for this kind of theft and older buildings such as train station depots and churches often have lead roofs and plenty of accessible copper pipes. In addition, commercial buildings are more likely to be empty after dark, making them an easier target for thieves.
Earlier this year, a man was caught stealing lead and copper cables at an old railway depot in Buxton. He was photographed by a security guard and later pleaded guilty to theft. Factories are also a prime target for thieves, as they’re usually located on isolated industrial estates. Many industrial estates are especially quiet at night, with most factories and warehouses closed, making them the ideal place to carry out crime undetected. Thieves looking for scrap metal will target sites without CCTV security systems or alarms in place. In Ross-on-Wye, a factory on Alton Road Industrial Estate was targeted by metal thieves in June 2014. Although the thieves only escaped with around £200 worth of copper components, it could cost the factory owner thousands of pounds to repair the damage done by the crude removal of the material.
Protecting your premises
Whilst installing CCTV and alarm systems can help to keep your business or home safe from criminals, it can be hard to protect out-of-the-way external areas or roofed areas. Traditional external motion detectors can be set off by seagulls, pigeons or other wildlife, but there is still a way to protect your premises from metal thieves. Why not consider a security system such as the ones developed by Tag Systems? Our wireless security system’s are specifically designed to tackle the ever-growing problem of lead theft from roofs and are a great way to protect your business premises.
How does it work?
The system consists of a detection cable which is fitted to leaded areas (such as the roof), using an externally rated weather-proof adhesive – vital for the UK climate! Zones of between 50 and 100 metres long each have their own tiny wireless transmitter. This then transmits signals to a base station located inside the building in question. If the cable is tampered with in any way or broken, the ‘Tag Alarm’ system is activated. This links to the company’s own 24/7 central monitoring station. Operators can see the location of the building on screen, right down to the part of the roof which is being targeted. Because only the disruption of or damage to the external cable will activate the alarm, there is no risk of false alarm due to birds or other wildlife. When the alarm is activated, a private security firm or key holders will usually investigate and if a crime has in fact taken place then police may be called to attend.
Protecting your property from metal theft
Could your development, property, building or factory and other place of work be a target for metal thieves? As well as lead roofs copper piping and even cables can be stripped from properties (cables often have copper wire inside), which can then be sold to scrap metal dealers for cash. So, how can you protect your property from metal theft? Cost is obviously a consideration when it comes to protecting your property, from metal theft, but the following low-cost tips can also help:
- Consider installing security lighting which is motion-activated, particularly at roof level, to deter thieves and vandals
- Remove easy access onto your roof by cutting back tall trees and moving waste bins or other objects which could be climbed on to gain access
- Keep gates and access to the rear of your property locked – thieves are less likely to target a property from the front, where they could be seen by neighbours and passers by
- Cut back tall trees and shrubs which can provide a screen for thieves to hide behind
- Use anti-climb paint on roof guttering and drain pipes to restrict access to your roof. Make sure you display a sign warning of anti-climb paint, to deter criminals
- Encourage vigilance amongst neighbours
- Consider basic security systems which can cost as little as £100 per month
Vigilance can go a long ways towards deterring metal theft and burglary.
Unfortunately, as the cost of copper and lead continues to rise, incidences of metal theft will increase too. So it’s important to ensure that you are protected from the thieves, whether that means installing a new security system at your business premises or taking simple, low-cost steps to protect your property at home. Just a few simple steps could ensure that you aren’t left facing costly repairs; remember that whilst metal thieves may only escape with a few hundred pounds worth of goods, it could cost you far more to have to repair your premises.