Metal Thefts Continue Downward Trend

Theft claims down more than 78 percent since 2014

DES PLAINES, Ill., April 4, 2019 — The theft of certain metals, specifically copper, has been the scourge of homeowners, municipalities, road departments and public safety agencies across the nation for several years. In a report issued today by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), it suggests that metal thieves may have moved on to other kinds of activities.

Download the complete report, infographic and full dataset.

2019 Metal Theft Report Infographic

In producing today’s report, NICB analysts reviewed a total of 27,514 insurance claims for metal thefts occurring from January 1, 2014, through December 31, 2017—98 percent of them for copper theft. The annual breakdown is as follows: 2014 (12,682); 2015 (7,995); 2016 (4,063) and 2017 (2,774). The decrease from 2014 to 2017 was 78.1 percent.

Much of the credit for these significant reductions is due to state legislatures and municipalities, working with their law enforcement agencies, to enact tough laws targeting copper and other metal thefts. Many of these laws require scrap yards and recyclers to document the transaction and obtain proof of identity to discourage thieves from trying to cash in on their crimes. All of which has increased public awareness as well. 

The top five states for metal theft claims were: Ohio (2,851); New Jersey (2,520); Pennsylvania (2,382); New York (1,927) and Illinois (1,491). When ranked by the number of claims per 100,000 in population, the top five states are: Connecticut (32.830), New Jersey (27.982), Ohio (24.454), Rhode Island (23.970) and Delaware (21.207). 
The top five core based statistical areas (CBSAs) were: New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA (1,938); Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD (1,731); Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI (1,246); Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD (810) and Cleveland-Elyria, OH (652). A total of 2,025—or 7 percent—of metal theft claims were either located outside of a CBSA or did not provide sufficient information to be included in a CBSA.

Just about any place where copper is present is at risk of theft based on the claims data reviewed, as well as anecdotal references gleaned from law enforcement and news media reporting. The best deterrent continues to be vigilance. If there is a vacant home or business in your area and you see suspicious or unusual activity around the property, call your local law enforcement. Until they arrive, if any vehicles are involved, jot down their descriptions and license plates. Also note the clothing and physical appearance of any persons. All of this is very helpful to investigators.

Media Contact

If you have a question, want further information on the NICB, or to discuss insurance fraud or vehicle crime, please contact:

Joe Brenckle
Director, Public Affairs

Nicholas Zeitlinger
Public Affairs Specialist

If you are a reporter and have a request or question, please complete the Media Request Form.

Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud or vehicle theft can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 800.TEL.NICB (800.835.6422) or submitting a form on our website.

About the National Insurance Crime Bureau: Headquartered in Oak Brook, Ill., the NICB is the nation's leading not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to combatting and preventing insurance crime through Intelligence, Analytics, and Operations; Education and Crime Prevention; and Strategy, Policy, and Advocacy. The NICB is supported by more than 1,200 property-casualty insurers, self-insureds, rental car, vehicle finance, and auto auctions. To learn more, visit