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Copper Theft: The Unanticipated Crime

In 2012, the National Insurance Crime Bureau reported that metal thefts have increased 81 percent since 2008. More specifically, the demand for copper has brought its price to all-time high, and has led to an increase in copper thefts across the nation. Many heating and air conditioning (HVAC) units have been stolen or destroyed for the copper components they contain. Other items copper thieves are pursuing include copper wiring, copper gutters, copper pipe and other electrical appliances and products containing copper. Churches of all sizes, and in all communities, are targeted by these criminals. Becoming educated on copper thefts and how you can protect your church may help decrease your risk of falling victim to this crime.

Know the Facts

Thieves’ attraction to copper is due to the fact that it is 100 percent recyclable, and recyclers pay, on average, 90 percent of new copper price. Most thefts occur at night – times when your building is unoccupied. Additionally, copper thieves do not have to be highly skilled technicians and only a limited number of tools are necessary to complete the heist. It is for all of these reasons that the threat of copper theft should be taken seriously.

Preventing Copper Theft

To protect your church from copper thefts, consider taking the following steps:

  • Identify your church’s vulnerabilities and develop a security plan. For assistance with this process, contact your local law enforcement professionals.

  • Add fences and gates and post appropriate “No Trespassing” signs to your property. This will deny access to your church property during times your building is unoccupied.

  • Add security lighting to areas where thieves and other criminals may hide.

  • Roof-mounted HVAC units are just as much at risk for copper theft as ground units. Remove any fixed ladders and other step-ups, such as tree branches, that may assist thieves. Do not remove fire escapes.

  • Consider the use of steel cages to enclose your AC units.

  • Develop a “Church Watch” program to keep an eye on your church property. Work with your neighbors and local law enforcement for assistance.

  • The use of security cameras can be a valuable tool in protecting your church. Make sure they are properly protected, installed and monitored.

  • Use alarms that are mounted to your HVAC units. An alarm will sound if the unit is tampered with.

The Importance of Copper Theft Prevention

The increase in copper theft has posed a serious threat to churches. It is seen as a crime of opportunity. As the value of the scrap metal continues to rise, so too will incidents of copper theft. By knowing the facts of copper theft, you and your church can take steps to prevent it. For more information, please view the Preventing Copper Thefts fact sheet on

© 2024 GuideOne Insurance. GuideOne® is the registered trademark of the GuideOne Insurance Company. All rights reserved. This material is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific legal or risk management advice, nor are any suggested checklists or action plans intended to include or address all possible risk management exposures or solutions. You are encouraged to retain your own expert consultants and legal advisors in order to develop a risk management plan specific to your own activities.