Metal Thieves 'See Green' on Construction Sites

By Tami Faram

The theft of metals--especially aluminum, steel, copper wiring and piping--from jobsites is rapidly increasing. Across the country, thieves are "seeing green" while they take metals from commercial and residential job sites to exchange for cash at their local scrap metal yards.

"The theft is a nightmare, as the value of scrap goes up, it gets all the worse," Lyle Hill, president of MTH Industries, Hillside, Ill., tells USGNN. Hill says his company was completing a job in Chicago where custom, pure bronze architectural window attachments were taken from the site. "Each of the completed pieces was worth $47.25, and they had stolen 128 of them from the jobsite," says Hill. "They were probably 'scrapped out,' for cash, but they only had a scrap value of about $3. It's not only the fact that we [MTH Industries] lost money in the matter, but everything had to be reordered and then the job was delayed."

Hill adds that in his experience the thieves are taking all types of metal and wiring - including job scrap - from construction sites.

"Stealing pieces of scrap metal from a site doesn't have the same impact as stealing finished goods it's when they steal a finished product that we really have the headaches."

Over the past year, Washington, D.C., police have received an increase in the reports of metal thefts from commercial and residential construction sites across the city, including government buildings, churches and other locations. The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department says there were 65 metal thefts reported in 2006, while 79 thefts of metals have already occurred at construction sites this year.

Northern Virginia commercial contractor Metropolitan Contractors Inc. tells USGNN that for certain construction jobs, the company has taken extra precautions to stop metal thefts from occurring.

"We had a job in Arlington [Va.] that had piles of copper piping in the basement," says Jim Corridon, president of Metropolitan Contractors. "We had to lock it up tight. That job was more difficult because the house was vacant, so we had to take extra measures we went the extra mile."

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), which works for metal processors and recyclers, has set up a "theft alert system" on its website, and is working with the National Crime Prevention Council to bring greater awareness to metal thefts.

"We've been very concerned with metal theft," says Steve Hirsch, associate counsel/director of state and local program for ISRI. "If you're looking for scrap metal, a scrap metal processor is going to have a lot of it."

ISRI lists only metal thefts that have been reported to the police. The theft alert system posts daily metal thefts from companies, individuals and police departments.

CLICK HERE for ISRI's theft alert page.

If you have had the theft of metals occur on your jobsite or company location, or you know of a metals theft problem in your area, CLICK HERE to discuss it on the USGNN Message Forum.