One of the fastest growing crimes in the UK is metal theft. Copper, lead, stainless steel, aluminium and scrap iron are being targeted by thieves looking to cash in quickly. An increase in demand for these metals from Asian markets has created a thriving international scrap trade, driving prices sky-high. Copper theft is of particular concern, with thieves targeting gas pipes, electrical wiring, copper cable, lightning conductors and flashing that can all be stripped from void properties, industrial buildings, offices, building sites and even public areas. The metal is then sold on to scrap yard dealers for profit.
SelectaDNA’s range of forensic marking products can help deter metal theft in the first instance, but in the event of a crime, identify the thieves responsible, giving Police the indisputable proof they need to bring criminals to justice.
With estimates that cable theft from railways has cost the UK economy £1 billion, the crime wave continues with up to eight cases of attempted rail metal theft a day. Aside from the obvious dangers associated with the crime, metal theft has also caused the delay or cancellation of over 35,000 rail services in the last year alone.
Rail track and vital electrical equipment belonging to the national rail operator in the Netherlands is being successfully guarded from metal theft by SelectaDNA Trace. This specially-formulated SelectaDNA product containing metal microdots is being deployed by ProRail BV to reduce the number of thefts of metal rail equipment such as copper cable, rail track and signal boxes. This superior technology helps Police provide immediate forensic proof of where stolen metal has come from, enabling them to prosecute criminals successfully. SelectaDNA Trace is also being used to protect rail infrastructure by the German national railway company Deutsche Bahn and by Network Rail in the UK.
Metal theft from churches across the UK is reaching epidemic proportions with more than seven churches being attacked each day. Thieves are targeting lead and copper from church roofs leading to extensive damage including leaky roofs and dangerous stonework caused by the metal literally being ripped from the building. Over the past four years, metal theft claims from churches insured by the Ecclesiastical insurance group have now exceeded £25m, with over 9,000 claims.Hundreds of churches throughout the UK are now using SelectaDNA Grease and SelectaDNA Trace to safeguard valuable metal roofs, flashing, and even church bells!SelectaDNA Grease is an invisible coded solution that transfers onto the thief’s hands or clothing and is almost impossible to remove. An ultraviolet light is used to expose traces of the substance on suspected thieves.
One of the churches to benefit from this added protection is Kingsdown Methodist Church in West Ealing, London, which had been previously struck by raiders three times in December 2010, causing damage worth £14,000. DNA Grease has now been applied to all metal at the church and outdoor signage warning thieves that it is there is being displayed. SelectaDNA Grease has a proven track record in reducing the number of metal thefts from vulnerable buildings such as churches. Since Police introduced it to the Ealing area, there have been no thefts reported from protected churches.
Following a surge in metal theft of local authority property including manhole and drain covers, street furniture, road signs and statues, councils are calling for a change in legislation that will ban cash payments for scrap metal. Metal theft is costing councils thousands of pounds a week but it is not just the financial implications that are cause for concern. The theft of drain covers leaves drainage shafts unprotected, creating serious risk of personal injury, as well as possible damage to vehicles.
Local authorities including Sunderland City Council are deploying SelectaDNA Grease and SelectaDNA Trace to mark drain covers, which have a high scrap value. Police have informed scrap metal merchants in the city and in neighbouring areas about the council’s marking scheme and they have also been warned of the risks of buying stolen drain covers. The use of SelectaDNA, which contains identifying microdots and forensic markers, is intended to ensure it will be very difficult for sellers to pass on stolen goods to scrap yard dealers in any location.