Deterring Copper Theft at Commercial Buildings

Restoring the damage from metal theft is an expensive proposition for property owners and insurers alike. The cost is often a multiple of the price to replace stolen copper wire or metal, because other building and electrical system components are often damaged when the metal is hastily stripped by thieves. Unoccupied properties are prime targets, and with higher vacancy in the market, property owners must be vigilant to protect their equipment.

With copper found in air conditioner coils, telecom equipment and utility equipment, many costly building systems are at risk. Theft of copper and other metals can result in power outages, phone outages, equipment failure, increased insurance rates, loss of insurance coverage, dangerous conditions, and untold expense.

In this August KVOA TV clip, “Copper Thefts on the Rise,” PICOR Principal Rob Glaser demonstrates the damage at one vacant industrial building, reporting the problem is at an all-time high for commercial property owners.

Scrap yards and metal recyclers have a responsibility to confirm goods they purchase are not stolen. Without a market for stolen metal, theft is reduced. A Tucson metal recycler was raided last month by law enforcement officials and is under investigation for trafficking in stolen cars and other items.

Strategies for deterring copper theft:

  • Installing surveillance systems including cameras, motion detectors and alarms
  • Caging equipment such as air conditioning units and backflow devices
  • Replacing copper with an alternative material where possible, such as galvanized steel or PVC
  • Installing security grounding bars
  • Securing equipment so it is harder to remove
  • Partnering with law enforcement/beat cops in the area of your unoccupied building 

What are you doing to prevent theft on your property? Post additional suggestions in the comments. We would love to hear them.

Among the many resources we investigated for this post, I am grateful to those who responded and contributed through the LinkedIn BOMA Group.

Mona Deane is a former Property Manager with PICOR and is Past President of BOMA ofMona Deane Tucson commercial property manager
Greater Tucson. She has over twenty years experience in the commercial real estate industry managing office, industrial and retail properties for asset and fee property management. Significant clients include Rockefeller Group, GE Capital and the University of Central Florida.

Photo/video credits: securityinfowatch.comKVOA TV, Gary Rumack Photography

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