OneBeacon Insurance Group offers the following tips to contractors and property owners to minimize the risk of copper theft.

A single penny may be worth only 1 cent, but put enough of them together and their copper content can fetch between $3 and $4 a pound - which is enough to entice thieves to steal copper in every possible form, says OneBeacon Insurance Group.

“The New York Commodity Exchange (COMEX) reports that the price of copper pipe and tubing has risen by more than 250 percent in the last three years,” saidCharlie Sidoti, vice president of risk control services forOneBeacon Insurance Group. “And research by the International Copper Study Group indicates that prices are rising in large part because of the demand for raw material. Thieves steal copper pipe and tubing and resell it to certain salvage yards that readily accept the scrap with no questions asked.”

According to Sidoti, thieves look for copper almost everywhere, including commercial facilities, homes, and construction sites. As HVAC contractors know, they’re looking for the copper coils from air conditioning units, as well as wiring and piping in unsecured buildings and homes, and new wiring, piping, and equipment awaiting installation at construction sites.

To protect this valuable resource, OneBeacon urges contractors and property owners to minimize the risk of theft by:
  • Arranging for local law enforcement to drive by job sites periodically.

  • Meeting with construction crew management to review procedures for securing materials and equipment.

  • Arranging just-in-time delivery of copper materials, components, and equipment; and avoiding storage of large quantities on-site or in warehouses.

  • Storing larger quantities of copper materials in secured buildings, storage containers, or wire cages.

  • Developing and using an effective inventory management system to identify, measure, and track copper materials and parts, and marking them with the company logo.

  • Recording the serial numbers of equipment that contains copper components.

  • When using trucks/trailers for on-site storage, securing them with King Pin locks and limiting access to the keys.
“Commercial property owners should secure their locations with fencing, motion-sensing exterior lighting, intrusion detection connected to a UL-approved monitoring service, video surveillance, security/property management services, and locked steel cages for HVAC equipment,” said Sidoti. “In addition, they should remove any unused fixed exterior ladders, stairs, and other means of access - except fire escapes, of course; and they should implement a formal visitor policy that includes log books. Residential and seasonal property owners can take similar steps to protect their properties.”