How to Prevent Copper Theft

Copper, or Cu, is a shiny red metal that is essential to our every day lives. Its high ductility, malleability, thermal and electrical conductivity, and resistance to corrosion gives it a wide range of application. The average building or structure depend on copper and all the properties it brings. Being an excellent conductor of electricity and heat, copper wire makes up much of a typical buildings wiring.

Copper is one of the most lucrative metals you can recycle. This is partially due to the fact that it requires little energy to do so. Pipes, wires, electric motors, roofing materials, and more are often targets of theft for the copper they contain. Because of this, and as the price of copper rises, copper thieves have become more of a problem for construction sites and property owners.

Why Do Thieves Steal Copper?

Simply put, because of its high scrap metal value. It is relatively more valuable than other common metals and it is abundant at construction sites and unoccupied buildings. Subsequently, these create the perfect storm of opportunity for thieves. Scrap metal locations are a perfect place for thieves to make money because they can exchange copper for cash. This helps them avoid leaving a suspicious paper trail which makes it nearly impossible to track stolen copper.

Where Can Thieves Find Copper?

Most straight forward answer:

  • Copper wiring
  • Copper Tubing
  • Copper pipes

Copper can be found in the following items

  • Refrigerators
  • Air conditioners and HVAC units
  • Phone and electric lines
  • Other utility lines
  • TVs, computers, electronics
  • Transformers and electric components

How You Can Stop Copper Thieves

  1. Obscure your copper. This is the most simple solution to preventing copper theft. Hide copper in a place where thieves are less likely to find it. Never leave copper in a clearly visible spot or unattended at a worksite. Paint copper components black to give them the appearance of plastic. Hide appliances and electronics away as best as you can. Invest in a storage container large enough to house all of your copper and keep them locked away.
  2. Security Patrols. Hire a security guard to secure your construction site or patrol your property to deter thieves. These trained professionals have the knowledge to spot thieves and can quickly call police to your property in case of a break-in or emergency.

Preventing Catalytic Converter Theft

The nation has seen the numbers of catalytic converter theft skyrocket within the past 12 months. From July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021, claims filed for catalytic converter theft grew by nearly 300% nationwide as compared to the year prior. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reports that catalytic converter thefts have seen a significant increase since the beginning of the global pandemic, March of 2020. The trend is climbing in 2021, leaving both individual car owners, fleet owners, and car dealerships on their toes.

In just moments, thieves stole 20 catalytic converters from a Mitsubishi dealership in La Porte, Texas. Countless of homeowners claimed that catalytic converters were stolen from right in front of their homes across the nation. Often times, the cars were in plain view of their front doors and windows, or even parking in their own driveways.

Why are Catalytic Converters Being Stolen at an Alarming Rate?

The clearest answer is due to the amount of precious metals used in the manufacturing of catalytic converters. They contain metals like platinum, palladium and rhodium. As of writing this article, platinum is worth $977.00 per ounce. That’s right, per ounce. Palladium is worth $2,428.00 per ounce, and rhodium goes for $16,250.00 per ounce. So which cars have the most catalytic converters stolen? Hybrids, like the Toyota Prius, are most often targeted because their converters contain the largest amount of precious metals. Additionally, they use less combustion meaning their converters retain those precious metals for a longer period of time. Full-size SUVs and trucks are also frequent targets because of the size of their converters and the fact that they’re easier to crawl under without the use of jacks.

Because of how expensive catalytic converters are, thieves sell them to scrap yards for several hundred dollars per piece. On the other hand, victims of converter thefts are left paying a hefty fee to replace them for these same reasons. What makes things worse is that in some states their vehicles aren’t street legal without a catalytic converter in place.

Symptoms of Catalytic Converter Theft

You may not be able to tell your cat was stolen just by looking at your car without jacking it up. However, you’ll know as soon as you start the engine. When the converter is missing, your car will make a loud roaring sound that gets louder as you press the gas pedal. Since the exhaust isn’t working properly, the vehicle also drives rougher than usual, often sputtering and spitting as you change speed. Visibly, you’ll notice a large gap in your exhaust and other signs of it being cut away.

Preventing Catalytic Converter Theft

Always park your vehicle in a well-lit area or in your personal garage, if possible. Thieves tend to prey on easier opportunities and will often pass-by high-risk targets. Park close to a building entrance or by a well-populated area since there is usually an increase in foot traffic. Calibrate your car’s security system so that vibrations will trigger an alarm.

If you live in an HOA or an apartment complex, urge your property manager to hire private security. Most of the time, the simple presence of a security guard is enough to deter crime and theft. You can also rally your neighbors to pitch in for private security services to patrol your neighborhood.

Many car owners are taking the steps to etch or engrave their vehicle’s VIN numbers onto their converters. In addition to this, many companies, like Cat Shield, Cat Security, and Cat Clamp, offer catalytic converter protection plates. The plates are often made of sturdy material and can be installed by a local mechanic in a short amount of time. This small step can help save drivers a ton of money down the road.

Signs of a Potential Shoplifter

Shop owners and store managers already have their hands full when running a retail establishment. The safety and security of their staff, shoppers and merchandise are always a top concern when running a smooth operation. The National Retail Federation reports that inventory shrink accounts for nearly $4.86 Billion in losses every year. Retail spaces, small and large, report that they’ve seen an increase in theft and shoplifting. Despite this, there are a number of things shop owners and store managers can do to reduce shoplifting in their stores.

Some stores train their staff to identify potential shoplifters, or at least individuals who display abnormal behavior. Loss prevention units are especially trained in watching shoppers to reduce to loss of merchandise and store profits. There is no such thing as a typical look of a shoplifter. Additionally, people of all backgrounds regardless of race, gender, age, etc. have been caught shoplifting. Here are some things you can watch out for when surveying shoppers in your establishment:

Displaying Avoidance Behaviors

It’s important to be able to recognize certain behaviors and body language of a potential thief. When a shopper is particularly being aloof and avoids making eye contact with other people, that can be a cause of concern. Look for customers who avoid other shoppers, especially staff members. Some shoplifters may even spend a considerable amount of time in an obscure part of the store where they can be left alone.

Wearing Large or Multiple Layers of Clothing

Wearing large or more clothing than is appropriate for the weather may also be a cause for concern. Large coats and jackets can conceal stolen goods and merchandise without making it appear obvious to an untrained eye. Some shoplifters will even go as far as wearing layers of stolen clothing while in fitting rooms so that they aren’t carrying it out the store. Be on the lookout for bulky jackets, coats, or hoodies that can easily hide merchandise.

Carrying Large or Multiple Bags

Although carrying shopping bags are typical of shoppers, be wary of individuals carrying rather large, seemingly empty bags. Also be on the look out for shoppers carrying backpacks, large purses or tote bags, beach bags, luggage, or duffle bags.

Pay Frequent Visits to the Store

Seasoned shoplifters will visit a location multiple times before finally returning to steal or shoplift their targeted items. Before doing so, they may appear to wander or look around for potential targets to steal. Many consider this activity as scoping or casing an area before returning, often when an accomplice, to commit theft.

Casing an area doesn’t necessarily always happen in-store either. Often times, thieves will case the outside of a building to look for vulnerabilities in security, and ideal points of break-in. We have another article detailing ways thieves can break into a retail establishment and how to reduce the chances of it.

Distracting Behaviors

Many shoplifters will distract store clerks to make it easier for someone else to steal. This is more often done in smaller retail spaces, and usually those without a security camera system in place. You’ve probably seen videos online of an accomplice occupying a cashier while an accomplice ventures to the opposite end of the store to shoplift. Beware of individuals who come in together then split up once inside the store.

Making a Fast Exit

Most shoplifters won’t hang around after they’ve stolen something. They’ll quickly bolt towards the exit without so much as making eye contact. Some may attempt to conceal their identity by pulling up their hood or scarf. There are videos circulating the internet of brazen thieves quickly leaving establishments while carrying piles of merchandise. However, most other shoplifters are discreet in their crimes as they life to draw as little attention to themselves as possible.

Beware of Carts and Strollers

As surprising as it may be to some, some shoplifters are caught pushing strollers and carts. Most strollers have storage compartments where moms can keep their bags and other belongings. These are easy containers for stolen merchandise as most wouldn’t assume a mother to steal. Some thieves were even caught pushing empty strollers to throw off the unsuspecting store clerk.

Hire Security

Many stores and retail establishments are hiring private security guards to stand watch at their store entrances. Most of the time the presence of a security guard is enough to deter would-be thieves and shoplifters from stealing merchandise. Other times, they may even intervene of the guard witnesses the criminal committing the act of shoplifting.

New Mask Mandate Calls for Extra Security

New mask mandates means more security needed. Government officials in California are mandating that individuals return to wearing masks regardless of vaccination status. As infection rates rise, more counties will require that masks are worn in stores, restaurants, movie theaters, offices, and many other indoor activities.

Hiring Security

Judging from the behavior of some individuals when previous mask mandates were in place, many establishments have turned to increasing security. Some of the security services they’re looking for includes the following:

  • Temperature checks
  • Asking visitors if they’ve experienced fever, cough, or any Covid-19 related symptoms.
  • Asking that visitors wear masks the entire time they’re in an establishment

Healthcare facilities requires all visitors to wash their hands prior to entering. Otherwise, the guard may ask them to vacate the property.

A number of incidents, with some turning violent, took place during mask mandates. The Federal Aviation Administration states that roughly 2,200 reported incidents involved passengers who would not comply with the federal mask mandate. Recently, an incident at Disneyworld took place where a man assaulted a security personnel for enforcing their face covering policy. In Georgia, a dispute relating to a mask mandate left 1 employee dead and 2 others injured. The incident broke out after a customer and store clerk argued about a face covering.

These are only a few of many incidents that took place surrounding mask mandates across the country. Security Officers are typically trained in de-escalation tactics. Usually a verbal interaction is all that is needed. If that doesn’t work and the individual becomes physical or violent, then the guard is trained to use reasonable force and contact local law enforcement.

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Likewise, as more employees return to working from home, many companies are hiring security to secure their now-vacant property. Empty buildings become targets for squatters and opportunists looking for an easy robbery.

Why You Need Parking Security

Parking lots and parking garages are often scenes to crime including vehicle theft and vandalism. They’re easy targets due to their relatively low visibility, lack of security, and their tendency to become chaotic. Parking lots of every size and location are potentially at risk for crimes. This includes apartment complexes, shopping centers, airports, train stations, etc. It’s generally a good idea to hire security to monitor parking areas. Having a secure, organized, and well-lit parking area will keep things safe and in order.

A large amount of catalytic converters are being stolen from vehicles and the numbers are only increasing. They contain valuable precious metals such as rhodium, platinum, and palladium, thus making them a prime target for thieves.

Assess the Risks

Owners and property managers should walk through their parking areas to clearly assess security risks and hazards. Document the layout of the parking lot to identify its security strengths and weaknesses. Are there any areas hidden from view? Is the parking lot well-lit? Do you need to install cameras? Are you aware of who comes and goes from your parking lot? Subsequently, these questions help you understand where you’d place security features. These can include cameras, security patrol services, or extra lighting.

Lighting

One of the most affordable and effective options for security is lighting. Increasing visibility and lighting helps drivers and pedestrians see while minimizing hiding places for criminals. Shadows and dark areas increase the likelihood of crimes taking place. Having the right amount of lighting and spacing is important to reduce the amount of shadows on the property. Also, the spacing in lighting plays an important role in minimizing shadowy areas.

Don’t forget to illuminate the side of buildings, walkways, and the dumpster area. Customers and employees alike should feel safe while walking to their cars at night.

Landscaping

Invest in smart landscaping designs that work well with your lighting system. Avoid having large amounts of large trees and dense shrubs as these can provide easy hiding places. Instead, invest in landscaping that deters criminals. Don’t forget, maintenance and care also play an important role in security. Trim bushes and trees to reduce invisible areas. Additionally, clean up loose leaves and trimmings to reduce tripping hazards. These also have a tendency to clog drains which could lead to other problems.

Signage

Installing signage around the parking lot may help change the behavior of would-be criminals. Similar to the way home security signs serve to deter thieves, having signs stating that a security guard is on duty could serve a similar purpose. For example, posting a sign stating that a security guard is on duty would most likely make a thief or criminal think twice. If you’re having issues with drivers speeding through your lot, posting signs indicating to slow down could potentially save lives.

Security Gates

Installing a security gate at the entrance and exit of your parking lot or parking garage could add an extra layer of security to your property. Some properties use access control systems where a badge or card is required for entry. Station a guard at the access point to screen cars as they enter and leave the parking lot. Parking lot gates can issue temporary parking permits to keep track of who comes and goes from the property. Also, you can designate parking spaces outside of the gate for visitors to keep potential threats at bay.

Security Patrol

Hiring a security to patrol your parking lot is a great way to get a handle on security. A security guard can react and respond to threats in-person or provide critical reports when an incident occurs. They’ll typically patrol the entire parking lot area during the designated time of service. Additionally, they can escort staff and employees to and from the building as needed. Many companies advise having a security guard on-site rather than a roving patrol since anything can happen to the property in between visits. The private security company can also accommodate your changing needs or customize a security protocol according to security changes. You can hire a person stationed at the parking lot and another to monitor CCTV.