A new report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) confirms what many Americans have learned through news reports, and their own experience, that thefts of copper and other metals are occurring all over the nation. The report reviews metal theft claims from January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2011.
The NICB issued an initial report on metal theft in February, 2009. Since then, incidents dropped off slightly, but as today’s report shows, beginning in August, 2009, thefts steadily increased across the nation driven, once again, by rising prices for base metals—especially copper.
Whether the theft is an expensive personal irritant, like finding your catalytic converter has been stolen, or one that threatens public safety, as in the recent theft of copper wiring which blacked out runway approach lights at the Modesto, Calif., regional airport—metal thefts are increasing in frequency and severity.
In an unclassified intelligence assessment first released in 2008 and modified in 2010, the Federal Bureau of Investigation wrote, “Copper thieves are threatening US critical infrastructure…and present a risk to both public safety and national security.”
Entire stretches of highways have been plunged into darkness and traffic controls at busy intersections have been rendered inoperative—all due to thoughtless acts of greedy copper thieves. Even brass grave markers are disappearing from cemeteries. Yet, bold and often risky thefts sometimes turn out badly for perpetrators. In February, 2011, Gregory Allen Alexander of Roseville, Calif., was electrocuted as he attempted to cut through a high-voltage wire at a municipal sports complex in Sacramento.
Today’s report identified 25,083 insurance claims compared with only 13,861 identified from the 2006-2008 report—an 81 percent increase. The top five states generating the most metal theft claims are Ohio (2,398); Texas (2,023); Georgia (1,481); California (1,348); and Illinois (1,284).
The top-five Core Based Statistical Areas generating the most metal theft claims are Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, IL (963); New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ (921); Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA (823); Dallas-Ft. Worth-Arlington, TX (674); and Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI (587).
Depending on the circumstances of the theft, these incidents may not generate an insurance claim, or even a police report. Consequently, comprehensive empirical data is elusive. While this report deals primarily with submitted insurance claims, the ultimate impact of this activity falls, to some degree, on all consumers. Losses to businesses and government entities are shared with customers and taxpayers through higher costs for goods and services and/or offsetting reductions in services.
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