There has been a sharp increase in metal theft over the past few years, causing chaos for a number of industries and organisations.
In the UK churches have been hit particularly hard with lead being stolen from roofs across the country. A crime that was once the preserve of village crooks and Famous Five stories has now become an international business worth millions.
It's not just churches that are being hit. Hospitals, power companies, and rail companies are all feeling the effects of metal theft as vital copper wiring is torn from generators, railway lines are plundered and copper piping is ripped straight off the walls of buildings. The theft of metals has reached epidemic proportions, so serious in fact that a special task force has been set up spearheaded by the British Transport Police; the first time such a taskforce has been set up for commodity theft. The head of the British Transport Police has declared metal theft to be his second greatest concern after terrorism.
Further afield there are reports of an entire bridge being stolen in the Ukraine while numerous artworks have also been carted away on the back of lorries to be melted for scrap.
But what is causing this wave of crime? The most common interpretation is that the new eastern powerhouses, China and India (collectively known chindia) are so hungry for metal to support their construction and hi-tech industries that their rapid growth has made a parochial crime hugely profitable.
New legislation aimed at scrap metal dealers is being considered while new technologies have also been developed to combat the problem. Technologies, particularly those involving bio-synthesised DNA, are increasingly being used to deter detect and defend properties against such theft. As these technologies role-out the expectation is that these crimes will become harder to commit and metal dealers will become more wary of who they buy from, aware that stolen metals can be traced back to their source. Although the problem is unlikely to go away, any organisation that is likely to be threatened by metal theft would be well advised to investigate this new technology.
After 13 years as Senior Scenes of Crime Officer / Crime Scene Coordinator with Hertfordshire Constabulary, Dave Tyrell joined RedWeb Security's Specialist Covert Tactical Operations division.
RedWeb Security pioneered the use of DNA-based tagging and tracking in the UK and has developed a number of solutions to combat copper wire theft , and metal theft . These are currently being used to successfully prevent metal theft across the UK.