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Theft of metals, a crime that affects us all

You may well think that the theft of metal doesn’t affect you. However just look around you - your car has a very desirable catalytic convertor on its exhaust system, a roof has lead if not for the whole roof then in places and in the ground there is cabling for utilities such as telecommunications.

It does not take a lot then to see how metal theft may impact on you. The loss of a catalytic convertor means a trader cannot work, resulting in a loss of income to the trader and inconvenience to those depending on a delivery or planned work that has to be delayed. Trips that have been planned end up being cancelled as the vehicle cannot be used.

The theft of lead from a roof can lead to water damage which can be catastrophic to a building, and especially to heritage buildings where it can also potentially cause the cancellation of a wedding or other functions that are often held in them.

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The theft of utility or telecommunication cabling can effectively cut off a village or whole area, causing a loss of not only business but also of connectivity, something that can have severe consequences for the vulnerable. These are just a few examples resulting from metal theft.

So, what can be done? We can make it more difficult to steal and we can make it more difficult to dispose of.

Report any suspicious activity

- The unmarked van or other vehicle parked with activity around a manhole or sub-station etc; an unknown person working under a car late at night/early hours of the morning; activity around a church, heritage or other building when it’s not normal especially on a roof.

- Protect your neighbourhood by setting up a Neighbourhood Watch, Heritage Watch or Business Watch if you have not got one. The signage for these watches deters criminals, and many eyes are better than one pair.

- If you have planned building work let your neighbours/parishioners/employees know, including who they are and what hours they will be there.

Make it harder to steal

- Ensure your vehicle is parked in an area where people can see it or put it “under lock and key”, in a garage or yard. Parking your vehicle out of view is one of the best ways to prevent opportunist theft.

- Park vehicles with high ground clearance between those with low ground clearance.

- Ask your manufacture or dealer if they can give you any advice on locks or guards to protect the catalytic converters under the vehicle. For safety reason any products will need to be approved by the vehicle manufacturer for use on your vehicle model and you should also make your insurance company aware of any vehicle modifications.

- When protecting buildings and their roofs, remove anything that may aid a thief. Don’t leave tools or climbing aids lying around, or something that may help them to carry their ill-gotten gains away. With lead from roofs especially, try and make access difficult consider a spiky topping around downpipes and fencing.

- Consider an alarm.

Make it harder to dispose of

- If it’s less attractive, it’s less likely to be stolen - so property marking and signs indicating this, along with other security devices may deter.

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- Property marking makes it harder to dispose of, and there is something for almost everything, from historic artefacts, catalytic convertors and roofing materials to your day to day property. Unmarked property is anonymous when stolen and in most cases the police don’t know where it came from which makes any prosecution much more difficult. A thief will know this and therefore anything that ties it back to the owner presents a risk not only to the thief but also to the handler. If the handler will not take it or it causes difficult questions, then it’s not worth stealing it in the first place.

For further advice on crime prevention of crime prevention products see: 

The official police security initiative, Secured by Design, has a Police Preferred Specification product based accreditation scheme which has been operating for over 20 years and provides a recognised standard for all security products that are sufficiently robust to resist physical attack by casual and opportunistic burglars.

There are currently many hundreds of companies producing thousands of attack resistant crime prevention products across numerous crime categories which have achieved Police Preferred Specification. Academic research has shown repeatedly over the last 20 years that these accredited, quality products have reduced burglary where they have been installed.

The Secured by Design website lists all products that have achieved the rigorous Police Preferred Specification standard.