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Scrap Metal Thieves Can Make Thousands Per Weekend

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Breaking into homes and businesses are for the desperate and not so bright thieves. The resale value of most items stolen from individual homes in the U.S. in 2009 was $147 according to Federal Bureau of Investigations. During that same period, construction sites, small regional airports and utility facilities on averaged had between $400 to $2900 worth of scrap and placed metal stolen from their locations. Mostly during holidays and weekends when there’s usually just a skeleton crew or no employees at all.

For the past few years, cities and towns in dozens of states have enacted laws that made sure that anyone who happens to sell scrap metal to a recycling scrap metal dealer must have their picture was taken with the metal they are selling along with their state ID and license number to their vehicles. The problem is that there are plenty of illegal pop up metal recycling shops that are the go-between for street metal thieves and reputable recycling plants that are trying to follow the law.

Two men electrocuted while trying to steal live wire

When copper and steel prices rise, illegal pop up shops are known to open and operate in old warehouses and abandon truck parking lots for a few months at a time, smelting copper tubes, street sewer caps and even city plaques and metal urns from cemeteries. After the metal is melted down it is usually untraceable and can be sold legally to legitimate scrap recycling plants. This does not mean that legitimate recycling plants are not buying stolen metal of course. In fact, most facilities have to call the police several times a day to have them investigate known stolen items. Even with that effort, most authorities will admit that a large portion of metal that is recycled at legitimate plants are suspect. In 2012, Los Angeles had only 2 investigators specializing in recycling crime. That was one more than Chicago’s unit.

Construction sites are not the only ones feeling the brunt of metal thieves. Homes and businesses are being robbed of their copper from air conditioning units with an average of $30 to $50 of copper being stolen out of each unit. In 2011, Franklin County Grand Jury in Columbus Ohio recently returned several indictments against four individuals allegedly involved in the theft of air conditioner units valued at more than $42,000 throughout Franklin County. The charges range from Theft, Receiving Stolen Property, Vandalism, Breaking and Entering, and Possession of Criminal Tools which assumingly happened all within one spring weekend.

Robert Patterson, First Deacon of Emmanuel Tabernacle Baptist Church Apostolic Faith in Columbus had multiple air conditioner units stolen over the last year and have spent nearly $20,000 replacing the units. The mayor of Columbus, Michael B. Coleman and the Institute of Scrap Metal Recycling Industries declared a 30-day moratorium on the purchase of retail air conditioning units and parts at participating scrap yards. In addition, following the 30-day moratorium, scrap yards will begin looking for invisible ink markings on all air conditioner units and parts prior to purchasing the scrap metal.
FOX 32 News Chicago

Overall, businesses and construction companies have been trying to deal with the onslaught of stolen metal from their construction sites for years, especially when it comes to copper. Usually, for construction outfits, it’s not the cost of replacing the material but the loss of productivity. When a plumber or metal worker shows up to work with the material that should be on hand and find the materials and tools missing, construction companies are paying them by the hour to sit on their hands waiting for more material to arrive.

After several phone interviews with construction companies in Chicago, Milwaukee, Orlando and Los Angeles, We’ve found several ways that construction sites learn to limit and sometimes eliminate their tools, materials and other items from being stolen from their construction sites.

 Get Fast Notification & Face Detection

Regular surveillance cameras are not effective by themselves. Management needs instant notification of human motion in certain areas during certain times of the day. The moment motion of a certain size is detected in areas that are subject to theft, management should be notified by a mobile phone app for instant response to the situation. Also, having a high definition surveillance camera system with a face detection service can help by identifying individuals quickly for police to follow up on. If your security cameras don’t have face detection or motion notification by mobile phone, consider upgrading to a 4K Security Camera System.

Micro Dot Exposed Items

A proven way to quickly identify stolen equipment and materials with an 85% proven rate of loss prevention is by adding an invisible to the eye microdots. DataDots are tiny microscopic discs (microdots), that contain unique information that’s linked to your property and you. MicroDotAs small as a grain of sand, DataDots are recognized as being one of the most effective ways of preventing theft and play a crucial role in the recovery and return of stolen goods. The unique etched code on the DataDot is stored on their worldwide verification database, DataBaseDNA. DataDots can be brushed or sprayed onto assets, and stay there for the life of the asset. DataDot Technology Ltd has patented its own innovative spray process, which can now spray a set of tools and exposed items in less than 60 seconds. DataDots can be detected with a UV light due to DataTraceDNA which is included in the adhesive as an invisible or ‘covert’ marker, providing absolute proof of product, and supplying an additional layer of security.

Know Your Local Recycling Plants

If you’re using security cameras with instant notification as well as microdot technology then you’re in the best position to take action if an incident occurs. Find out where the closest recycling centers are near you so you can notify them the moment you are aware of a theft. Recycling centers are keenly aware of their image in the public eye and to local police and even questionable recycling centers will be more than likely to be on the lookout for your material and even use ultraviolet light to see microdot information and determine if it’s yours. In most cases they will notify you and the authorities immediately the moment they run across your stolen items.

Bridges Stolen For Scrap Metal



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