Metal theft claims have risen 36 percent in the three years since January, 2010, according to an insurance research organization.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) said it is seeing more evidence of pervasive metal theft—overwhelmingly copper—across the nation. The NICB reviewed metal theft claims from the ISO ClaimsSearch database covering January 1, 2010 through December 31, 2012.
During this period, 33,775 insurance claims for the theft of copper, bronze, brass or aluminum were handled—32,568 of them (96 percent) for copper alone. Aluminum was the second highest target with 955 claims.
The group said this is a 36 percent increase in claims compared with the 25,083 claims reported between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2011.
Fifty-five percent of the claims were on commercial policies, while 45 percent were on personal policies.
The report ranks Ohio first of all the states generating 3,228 metal theft claims. It was followed by Texas (2,624), Georgia (1,953), California (1,888), North Carolina (1,682), Pennsylvania (1,675), Illinois (1,607), New York (1,568), Michigan (1,350) and Florida (1,335).
Rhode Island tops the rankings when ranked by number of ISO metal theft claims per 100,000 residents, followed by Ohio, Delaware Kentucky and Arkansas.
The top-five Core Based Statistical Areas generating the most metal theft claims are New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, New York-New Jersey (1,275); Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, Illinois (1,154); Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, Georgia (1,019); Dallas-Ft. Worth-Arlington, Texas (849); and Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Delaware (786).
NICB said its research shows there is a significant correlation between the number of copper theft claims and the price of copper when the number of metal theft claims per month and monthly average copper prices are compared.
“Law enforcement agencies across the country and around the globe started seeing increased numbers of thefts of metals such as copper, bronze, brass, and aluminum in the years leading up to the recent economic downturn,” the report says. “Copper prices were at record highs, increasing the attractiveness of the metal as a target for theft.”
Thus far in 2013, NICB said there have been reports of copper thefts at numerous locations including one from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport that disabled the approach lighting for one of the runways. Meanwhile, other reports across the country cite damage to street lights and traffic controls.
The damage caused by these thefts is often several times the value of the metal stolen, leaving the victims with hefty repair costs which are then often passed on to insurance companies, according to NICB. The U.S. Department of Energy has estimated that metal theft costs U.S. businesses around $1 billion a year.
There have been some legislative and regulatory efforts in recent years aimed at stemming the problem. Currently, state bills addressing metal theft are pending in Arizona, California, Michigan, Minnesota and Washington, among other states, while at the federal level, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., introduced this past February the “Metal Theft Prevention Act of 2013.”
The National Insurance Crime Bureau, headquartered in Des Plaines, Ill., is supported by 1,100 property/d casualty insurance companies and self-insured organizations.