Metal Theft Report

Metal Theft Claims and Questionable Claims from January 1, 2009 to December 31, 2011

Frank Scafidi

NICB Reports Metal Thefts Increase 81 Percent Since 2008

FBI: “Copper Thefts Threaten U.S. Critical Infrastructure”

DES PLAINES, Ill., March 8, 2012 — A new report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) confirms what many Americans have learned through news reports and, unfortunately, their own experience that thefts of copper and other metals are occurring all over the nation. The report reviews metal theft claims from January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2011.

The NICB issued an initial report on metal theft in February, 2009. Since then, incidents dropped off slightly, but as today’s report shows, beginning in August, 2009, thefts steadily increased across the nation driven, once again, by rising prices for base metals—especially copper.

Whether the theft is an expensive personal irritant, like finding your catalytic converter has been stolen, or one that threatens public safety, as in the recent theft of copper wiring which blacked out runway approach lights at the Modesto, Calif., regional airport—metal thefts are increasing in frequency and severity.

In an unclassified intelligence assessment first released in 2008 and modified in 2010, the Federal Bureau of Investigation wrote, “Copper thieves are threatening US critical infrastructure…and present a risk to both public safety and national security.”[1]

Entire stretches of highways have been plunged into darkness and traffic controls at busy intersections have been rendered inoperative—all due to thoughtless acts of greedy copper thieves. Even brass grave markers are disappearing from cemeteries. Yet, bold and often risky thefts sometimes turn out badly for perpetrators. In February, 2011, Gregory Allen Alexander of Roseville, Calif., was electrocuted as he attempted to cut through a high-voltage wire at a municipal sports complex in Sacramento.

Today’s report identified 25,083 insurance claims[2] compared with only 13,861 identified from the 2006-2008 report—an 81 percent increase. The top five states generating the most metal theft claims are Ohio (2,398); Texas (2,023); Georgia (1,481); California (1,348); and Illinois (1,284). The top-five Core Based Statistical Areas generating the most metal theft claims are Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, IL (963); New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ (921); Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA (823); Dallas-Ft. Worth-Arlington, TX (674); and Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI (587).

The full report can be viewed and downloaded here.

Depending on the circumstances of the theft, these incidents may not generate an insurance claim, or even a police report. Consequently, comprehensive empirical data is elusive. While this report deals primarily with submitted insurance claims, the ultimate impact of this activity falls, to some degree, on all consumers. Losses to businesses and government entities are shared with customers and taxpayers through higher costs for goods and services and/or offsetting reductions in services.

Individuals can do their part to prevent these kinds of thefts by simply being vigilant in their neighborhoods and business communities. If dwellings remain unoccupied for extended periods of time, they become magnets for unlawful behaviors. Wire stripping is among the activities that are routinely discovered in these locations. Your best protection is simply paying attention. Talk with your neighbors and ask one that you trust to keep watch on your home if you will be away and return the favor. As always, you should report suspicious activity to your local law enforcement agency. Unreported crime may breed more crime.

Anyone with information concerning metal theft can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 1-800-TEL-NICB (1-800-835-6422), texting keyword “fraud” to TIP411 (847411) or by visiting our Web site at Or, iPhone or iPad users can download the NICB Fraud Tips app to make it easy to quickly send a tip and get a response.

About the National Insurance Crime Bureau:  headquartered in Des Plaines, Ill., the NICB is the nation’s leading not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to preventing, detecting and defeating insurance fraud and vehicle theft through data analytics, investigations, training, legislative advocacy and public awareness. The NICB is supported by more than 1,100 property and casualty insurance companies and self-insured organizations. NICB member companies wrote over $319 billion in insurance premiums in 2010, or approximately 80 percent of the nation’s property/casualty insurance. That includes more than 94 percent ($152 billion) of the nation’s personal auto insurance. To learn more visit



[2] Total number of thefts reported to law enforcement may be significantly higher.