The Real Costs of Scrap Metal Theft

Scrap Metal TheftEarlier this year, Atlanta Public Works and Department of Watershed Management employees were arrested within a week of each other in conjunction with metal theft. These public employees were arrested for stealing city-owned metal, including copper, and selling it to recycling centers.  This is a high-profile example of scrap metal theft but definitely not the most common.

The Department of Energy estimates that scrap metal theft costs businesses, consumers and taxpayers over a billion dollars a year. The problem is prevalent in our local area. Georgia has the unfortunate distinction of being number 5 on this list of the Top 5 States for Metal Theft. The concentration seems to be in the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell area where about 1,200 of Georgia’s 2,067 metal thefts were reported to insurance companies in 2013, according to this article.

Scrap metal theft is a major issue in the business and impacts the way scrap metal transactions are conducted. Because of laws in place to curb theft, there are certain practices we need to adhere to at Acworth Recycling.

  • We need to keep a database of scrap metal dealers with each name connected to a license number.
  • We need to take a photograph of every piece of scrap metal that comes to our location for redemption.
  • There are certain items we are only able to accept from specific people due to the high number of these items that have been stolen in the past:

Air conditioning unit copper coils

Burned copper wires

Sewer caps

Shopping carts

Burial objects

Vehicles and trailers without a title or title cancellation certificate

In 49 states there are laws to combat metal theft and yet there is little proof that these laws are putting an end to the crime. The crime may, in fact, be on the rise.

According to this 2014 article on metal theft:

A 2013 report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau reveals the rapid pace at which metal theft is growing. From 2010 through the end of 2012, nearly 34,000 insurance claims had been submitted for stolen copper. That was up 36 percent from the three-year period that ended in 2011.

Scrap metal theft is a challenge for many businesses and communities.  We understand the challenge and have sophisticated, automated software and digital photo capabilities in place that make it easy for us to follow the laws and still rapidly move our customers and employees through the purchasing process.