NICB: Ohio continues to lead country in scrap metal theft claims

Source: The Drum

Source: The Drum

COLUMBUS (Sept. 9, 2015) The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reports that Ohio continues to lead the country in 2012-14 insurance metal theft claims. For the fourth consecutive year of this report, Ohio ranked first in the US in metal theft claims to insurance companies. NICB’s report for 2012-14 finds Ohio generated 4,438 metal theft claims, followed by Pennsylvania (2,770), Texas (2,379), New Jersey (2,192) and California (2,127).

In its report for 2012-14, the NICB reports US insured scrap metal theft claims declined 8 percent between 2012 and 2014. Of the 39,993 total claims in that period, the vast majority (98%) pertained to the theft of copper. Of these claims, 53% were personal insurance policy claims, with the remaining 47% were commercial claims. According to the NICB, a correlation was found to exist between the number of metal theft claims and copper prices.

Three Ohio metro areas ranked in the top 10 US cities for metal theft claims, according to the NICB’s 2012-14 Metal Theft Claims and Questionable Claim Referrals report:

6th Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN   903*
7th Cleveland-Elyria           895
9th Columbus                     779
*Cincinnati metro area includes parts of KY & IN

Last year’s report had Ohio ranked first, with 4,144 metal theft claims for the reporting period of 2011-13. Ranking second through fifth were: Texas, California, Pennsylvania and Georgia.

The NICB indicates that while many more metal thefts occur than are reported to law enforcement agencies across the US, they do not necessarily trigger claims. According to the Ohio Insurance Institute (OII) if the damage is not covered by insurance or the loss is below or near the insurance policy’s deductible, it would likely not be a reported insurance claim.

According to the OII, efforts are underway to reverse the trend. Ohio’s scrap metal program, which fully launched earlier this year, will aid law enforcement in the identification of metal thefts, thieves and metal theft transactions. The program is the result of the passage of SB 193 in 2012. (See more on Ohio’s effort below)

Click here for NICB’s 2012-14 release, including additional resources.

Ohio efforts to combat metal theft

Ohio scrap metal info by the numbers

  • Ohio metal theft claims by year (Source: NICB)
Year Ohio metal theft claims
2009 466
2010 797
2011 1,198
2012 1,466
2013 1,446
2014 1,526
  • 437: Number of scrap dealers in Ohio as 0f June 3, 2015. (Source: Ohio Department of Public Safety, 2015 Annual Report)
  • $250: First-time registration fee for Ohio scrap metal dealers to support Ohio’s online database (yearly renewal fee is $150) (Source: Marion Star)
  • 2012-14 metal theft claims by major Ohio city (Source: NICB)
City 2012 claims 2013 claims 2014 claims TOTAL
Columbus 204 170 205 579
Cincinnati 174 162 179 515
Cleveland 146 165 159 470
Dayton 93 85 68 246
Akron 56 67 98 221
Toledo 50 62 59 171
Canton 45 29 31 105
Youngstown 39 30 35 104

Metal theft targets and insurance aspects

Homes that are either vacant and/or foreclosed and those that are for-sale and unoccupied are typical targets for metal theft. Offenders break in and strip them of copper pipes and wiring.

Large commercial air conditioning systems that are not secured are also susceptible to theft.

Some metal theft operations have been known to damage infrastructure systems such as railroads, schools, telecommunications and emergency response. Power outages have also been reported.

As to why Ohio continues to be the top state for theft claims, the Ohio Insurance Institute is left to speculation. According to the OII, Ohio insurers may be more conscientious in their claims reporting practices, meaning that more of these thefts are being tracked and reported by Ohio insurers than in other parts of the country.

These findings show that that businesses, homeowners and others file for more insurance claims here than in other states, which could also be due in part to higher levels of loss and damages. When a metal theft loss is near or below a policy’s deductible, it may not be enough to warrant a claim or be reported to an insurer.

Typical commercial deductibles, which come into play in these claims, range from $500-1,000 for small business owners and up to $5,000 for mid-sized and large businesses.

OII also advises homeowners who are planning to sell their home or otherwise become vacant to check insurance coverages. In certain cases, a listed home may be considered unoccupied by some insurers. Some insurance companies will continue to insure a home as an occupied dwelling for a set period of time — such as 30 to 60 days — under certain criteria. In a situation where the standard homeowners insurance policy is no longer an option, insurers offer coverage, which is usually limited to fire, lightning and similar losses. See this OII release for more: Coverage for vacant or for-sale homes.

Business measures to deter metal theft

Many insurers advise their business clients to look at installing theft deterrent systems or alarms to their air conditioning systems. A number of HVAC contractors offer them and run about $500-750 to install. Homeowners may be able to add them to their home monitoring systems as well. Video surveillance and security lighting serve as good deterrents too.

To reduce the risk, businesses can take measures including:

  • Install a security camera with a video recorder and store the recordings.
  • Secure all equipment and scrap metals in locked buildings or in well-lit areas secured by fencing. Consider a perimeter security system with contact alarms or motion detectors, or install a six-foot perimeter fence with barbed wire at the top (as permitted by local regulations) that has locked gates.
  • Post “No Trespassing” placards or signs indicating the presence of a surveillance or security system.
  • Remove items that promote access to buildings and roofs such as trees, ladders, scaffolding and dumpsters.
  • Secure access to the building with deadbolts and door and window locks.
  • Trim or remove shrubbery or other landscaping that allows criminals to hide from view on your property.
  • Increase exterior lighting and protect fixtures (such as AC units) with locked metal cages.
  • Mark metals, AC units and other items with the company’s name using paint, hard-to-remove decals or engraving equipment.
  • Make sure someone is present when supplies such as copper, wiring or pipe are delivered to a job site so they can be immediately secured.
  • Avoid lengthy storage of supplies. The longer metal is onsite and unused, the longer it’s at risk for theft.
  • Develop a relationship with local law enforcement. Ask for their guidance in preventing metal theft at your business and what to do if a theft occurs.
  • Create a master list of equipment and bulk metal (if applicable) and include pictures. Provide the list to your insurance company/agent and law enforcement officials to aid in theft recovery.
  • If you have a metal theft, call the police immediately so that local recyclers and scrap dealers are alerted. Be sure to preserve the crime scene, including tire tracks, shoe tracks and fingerprints. This evidence could be used to help prosecute the thieves if they are caught.
    (Source: Nationwide Insurance)

Resource links:

NICB: Frank Scafidi, 916.979.1510
 and Carol Kaplan, 202.604.5649
Ohio Insurance Institute: Dean Fadel, 614.228.1593
Ohio Dept. of Public Safety: Dustyn Fox, 614.466.3640