NICB: Ohio scrap metal thefts decline, but continues to lead country

COLUMBUS (Nov. 17, 2016) Although Ohio continues to lead the country in metal theft claims, the state’s overall theft figures are trending down, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reports. The NICB report for 2013-15 shows Ohio metal theft claims dropped nearly 9 percent from last year’s report for 2012-14. There were 4,042 metal thefts statewide for the three-year period of 2013-15, compared to 4,438 metal theft claims reported for 2012-14.

According to the Ohio Insurance Institute (OII), Ohio metal thefts are at their lowest point since 2010. In 2015, 1,070 metal thefts were reported statewide. OII notes that between 2014 and 2015, Ohio metal theft claims declined nearly 30 percent, besting the US decline of 23 percent.

2009-15 Ohio metal theft claims by year

Year Ohio Metal Theft Claims
2009 466
2010 797
2011 1,198
2012 1,466
2013 1,446
2014 1,526
2015 1,070

(Source: NICB)

2013-15 report highlights
NICB’s report for 2013-15 finds Ohio generated 4,042 metal theft claims, taking the top spot, followed by Pennsylvania (2,819), New Jersey (2,585), New York (2,101) and Texas (1,833). The NICB also reported US insured scrap metal theft claims declined 29 percent between 2013 and 2015.

Of the 35,961 total claims in this period (39,993 in 2012-14 report), the 98% pertained to the theft of copper. Of these claims, 58% (53% in 2012-14 report) were personal insurance policy claims. The remaining 42% (47% in 2012-14 report) were commercial claims. According to the NICB, a correlation was found to exist between the number of metal theft claims and copper prices, trending down for much of 2015.

Three Ohio metro areas ranked in the top 10 CBSAs (core-based statistical areas) for metal theft claims, according to NICB’s state by state metal theft claims report. Information on Ohio’s top eight cities and 2013-15 metal theft claims are:

RANK Ohio CBSA 2013-15 Metal Theft Claims
6 Cleveland-Elyria 842
8 Cincinnati (OH-KY-IN) 829
9 Columbus 691
19 Akron 362
30 Dayton 263
32 Youngstown-Warren-Boardman 246
49 Canton-Massillon 168
50 Toledo 166

Ohio efforts to combat metal theft

Other Ohio scrap metal info by the numbers

  • 416: Number of registered scrap dealers in Ohio (Source: Ohio Department of Public Safety, 2016 Annual Report)
  • 3 million: Number of daily transactions in Ohio’s Daily Transaction Database, as of June 2016. The Daily Transaction Database mandates that every scrap dealer business provides written and photographic records of every business transaction that falls under the Ohio Revised Code. (Source: Ohio Department of Public Safety, 2016 Annual Report)
  • 200,000: Number of individuals on Ohio’s “Do Not Buy List.” (Source: Ohio Department of Public Safety, 2016 Annual Report)
  • $200: Initial registration fee for Ohio scrap metal dealers. Subsequent annual registration fee: $150 (Source: Warren Tribune Chronicle)
  • Top 3 Ohio CBSAs for metal theft for 2012-14:
    6th Cincinnati (OH-KY-IN)      903
    7th Cleveland-Elyria               895
    9th Columbus                         779
    (Source: NICB 2012-14 Metal Theft Claims and Questionable Claim Referrals report)
  • 2012-14 metal theft claims by major Ohio city:
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

(Source: NICB)

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.
Also see:
How safe is our power grid?
How America Could Go Dark
AEP power lines stolen
Copper Theft Gets Weirder — and More Dangerous

The NICB indicates that while many more metal thefts occur than are reported to law enforcement agencies, they do not necessarily trigger claims. According to 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. Commercial deductibles, which come into play in these claims, typically 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 a homeowners insurance policy is no longer an option, insurers offer coverage, which is usually limited to fire, lightning and similar losses. See the OII release for more: Coverage for vacant or for-sale homes.

4 reasons attributing to Ohio’s decline in Ohio copper theft activity

  • Full enactment of a comprehensive Ohio state law in February 2015. It requires documentation of all metal theft transactions. Also some Ohio municipalities have imposed additional enforcement measures.
  • Value of copper in 2015: $3.21/lb. on 1/1/15 and down to about $2.40 on 12/16/15.
  • Ohio’s current economic climate and lower unemployment rate.
  • Overall increase in public awareness of scrap metal theft activity and how to prevent these kinds of crimes.

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: Roger Morris, 847-544-7085 and Frank Scafidi, 916.979.1510
Ohio Insurance Institute: Dean Fadel, 614.228.1593
Ohio Homeland Security (ODPS): Dustyn Fox, 614.466.3640