Metal Theft on the Rise

By Karen Blythe, ARM  

Have you discovered copper wire, brass fittings, aluminum ladders, welding leads, or stainless steel items stolen from your jobsite? If so, you are not alone. Metal thefts are on the rise, due, in part, to the increased value of scrap metal. Clean copper wire can bring more than $3.00 per pound at a metal recycler. Just a few years ago, the same wire would have been 59 cents per pound.                                   

Costs associated with theft eat away at your profits. In addition to the cost of replacement and reinstallation of the stolen items, there are also costs associated with production delays. If the stolen items are even covered by your insurance, their dollar value may not meet your deductible. When the value of the stolen items is just over the amount of your deductible, are you willing to file a claim with your insurance company and risk increased premiums, or even, in some cases, cancellation?                                   

Theft prevention is profit protection. There is no single solution to the theft problem but there are several prevention strategies you can implement to make your jobsite less vulnerable to thieves. It is important to send a very clear message that it is not easy to steal from you and if you do steal, you are likely to get caught. Let everyone know, especially local law enforcement, that you will assist in every way possible in the prosecution of anyone caught stealing from you.                                   

The following are steps you can take to help prevent these costly thefts.

• Store expensive tools, materials, and equipment in a secure area. If you must keep copper, aluminum, brass, or other expensive metals on the jobsite, store them out of sight in a secure, locked area.

• Make sure padlocks are not left hanging open making them easy to swap. Thieves can swap your lock for theirs and come back later to gain access to your site.

• Change the locks regularly and maintain an accurate log of how many keys have been issued, and to whom.

• Keep tool boxes closed so that wouldbe thieves can’t preview what is in them, and come back later to steal. (Is the padlock closed on the toolbox?)

• Limit access to the jobsite. If access is limited, thieves will have difficulty gaining entrance to your site to scope out what is available to steal.

• Engage employees in your theft prevention program. Encourage employees to question unusual activity and people on jobsites. Some thieves will scope out a jobsite in broad daylight. When questioned about their activity, they often flee.

• Limit access to the jobsite. If access to the jobsite is limited it will be dif- ficult for thieves to get onto your site and scope out what might be available to steal later.

• Report thefts to the police. Law enforcement doesn’t know the full impact of theft unless it’s reported. It is difficult to find the tools and material, or other items that thieves steal, if the theft has not been reported to the police. Law enforcement patrols are based, in part, on criminal activity. If none is reported, it may appear that the area is crime free, when in fact it is not.

Karen Blythe, ARM is the Executive Director of the Construction Industry Crime Prevention Program of the Pacific Northwest (CICP). CICP is a network of contractors, law enforcement, trade associations, insurance companies and vendors who work together to fight construction theft and vandalism. For more information she invites you to call 503.618.8871 or visit the  


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