How do I prevent metal theft?

Thieves like metals because they are easily recycled.

Keep metal items locked away, or use ground anchors to secure. Use padlocks or chains for ladders, beer kegs, wheelbarrows and wheelie bins (which are sometimes used to transport stolen metal). Be aware that catalytic converters on cars – especially 4x4s – are a target, so report people looking under cars.

The metals most commonly stolen are copper, aluminium, brass, and bronze.

Those most commonly targeted are trades people who use copper cables or piping during the course of their work. Thieves break into tubes on vehicle roof racks and remove the contents.

When vehicles are left unattended for any long period of time, the copper should be removed and stored safely. The tube on the roof rack should be left open to show it doesn't contain anything.

Metal-framed windows, roofs, copper rainwater pipes, iron gates, manhole covers and even church bells are all valuable items and can mean high rewards for thieves. Homes, churches, business premises and public buildings are all potential targets that could suffer from metal theft.

 Advice for reducing metal thefts:

  • Consider your existing security measures. Is your Intruder Alarm, CCTV and lighting appropriate for the task?
  • Review your Security lighting:
    - Dusk till dawn security lighting is highly efficient and low-energy, switching on automatically when daylight fades and giving an even spread of light.
    - The other main form of lighting is Passive Infra-Red Detector (PIR), which operates by sensing movement.
  • Review the security of perimeter fencing and gates on a regular basis, checking for holes or weak spots that might assist access to your site
  • Consider planting prickly shrubs around the perimeter fence
  • Where possible keep gates locked and restrict vehicle access to your property or premises
  • Remove any means of transporting metal away, such as wheelie bins and wheelbarrows
  • Maximise the level of natural surveillance:
    - Shrubs and hedges should be trimmed to around 1 metre with any tree canopy no lower than two metres.
    - The best hedging for a barrier is one that is thick, prickly and difficult to penetrate such as Pyracantha or Berberis.
  • Remove any means where possible intruders could gain access to your roof, such as water butts, wheelie bins and garden furniture.
  • Store ladders in a safe place, ideally chained securely to a wall and locked in a secure outbuilding such as a garage or shed.
  • Be a good neighbour and encourage members of your community to be vigilant.
    - Consider using external signs asking neighbours to alert police if they see suspicious activity in the neighbourhood.
    - Take a note of the appearance and registration numbers of any unfamiliar vehicles. This information can be of great help to police if there is an incident in your area.
  • Consider joining a Neighbourhood/Business/Farm Watch scheme. 
  • Consider applying anti-climb paint to drainpipes and roof guttering, making climbing difficult for offenders. 
    It needs renewing periodically and should only be applied above 2.4 metres from the ground. It must be accompanied by appropriate clear signage, in compliance with the Occupiers' Liability Act 1984 and the Health and Safety Act 1974.
  • Use forensic security-marking products to mark metal goods and link thieves to a crime scene. Signs that warn forensic marking are a good deterrent and should be prominently displayed. Details of forensic marking products can be found on the Secured by Design website.

Scrap metal dealers are prohibited from trading in cash. 

This has removed the 'no questions asked' cash payments which help metal thieves and rogue dealers. If you are aware of scrap metal dealers who are trading in cash you can contact your local officer through the Your Area section of our website.

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