At present, the issue of metal theft is of growing concern to police forces across the UK. Costing the economy around £770 million annually, thieves are consistently finding new targets and, with this in mind, efficient security measures should be a priority for building owners and developers. Here, James Kelly, Chief Executive of the British Security Industry Association (BSIA), discusses some of the factors that should be considered when designing building security.
The potential victims of metal theft are endless, ranging from railway infrastructure, plaques on graves or memorials, lead piping or roof tiles on houses and even trophies from sports clubs. Valuable materials, such as lead or copper, are targeted by thieves for their extrinsic value and are often generated to make new products.
New buildings tend to utilise an array of different raw materials throughout the construction process. Therefore, designing a building with the risk of metal theft in mind can be extremely beneficial, potentially preventing the loss of valuable materials once the building is completed.
Security measures should be implemented from the word go, being considered in the design stage right through to the final phases of construction. Metals are perhaps most vulnerable during the construction process, when materials can be left unattended for longer periods of time, creating opportunities for thieves. If these vital materials are stolen, the construction process could also become much lengthier than expected – having to take the time, and money, to source replacements.
Many may have the impression that security measures consist of robust obstructions that are likely to compromise the look of a building. This is simply not the case. Churches have often fallen victim to metal theft in the past, mainly due to their roofs, which tend to be rife with lead panels. While protecting their roofs from this opportunistic crime was a priority, maintaining the historic nature of the structure was also imperative. BSIA members have had direct experience with this specification, and have shown that effective security measures do not always have to be visible.
Perimeter security is said to be essential and often referred to as ‘the front line’ of security due to that fact that it allows for an earlier detection of a threat, alerting those who may be occupying the building to an intruder and giving them more time and space to react accordingly.
For buildings that are not occupied 24 hours a day, intruder alarms can be linked with Alarm Receiving Centres (ARC). This way, no matter what time of day an alarm is triggered, a trained operator will be notified of the intrusion and will be able to organise the necessary response.
Another extremely effective way of securing your materials can be through asset and property marking. By having your materials marked with a forensically coded solution, if stolen, the goods are rendered worthless by either their covert or overt markings. Security marking gives police the opportunity to catch and convict criminals, and consequently return the stolen goods to their rightful owners. The process of property marking involves uniquely marking items using a permanent marking product, and subsequently registering that item to a secure national database. Police will then be able to check with this database to see if any items that have come into their possession have been registered as stolen. Security marking can also act as a successful deterrent to thieves, by placing signs around a building site clearly stating that property has been marked, thieves will be less enthusiastic about attempting to breach the premises.
There are a wide array of marking solutions available, and BSIA members distribute a large proportion of the products in the UK that use forensic codes. As well as using codes that are traceable through a database, there are also a variety of marking solutions that will transfer onto the skin, clothes or equipment of those attempting to steal property.
One BSIA member, Selectamark, has been using a forensically coded grease to combat metal theft. The grease is painted onto the vulnerable material and if touched, fingerprints will be left behind. The grease also instantly transfers onto the hands and clothing of those who touch it, staying on the skin for up to two weeks. This can place a criminal at the scene of the crime, whether or not they have been successful, potentially preventing anyone else from attempting to do the same.
As the trade association representing the UK’s private security industry, the BSIA offers a wide range of online advice in regards to security. Most recently, a metal theft guide has been released, which gives advice on the security options available for a wide range of infrastructures, accompanied by real life success stories from member companies. To read the guide visit http://www.bsia.co.uk/web_images/publications/156_metal_theft_guide.pdf
When sourcing your security, the most important aspect is that you choose from a quality supplier. BSIA member companies are reputable professionals and are inspected to key European and British standards, to find a member company near you visit http://www.bsia.co.uk/find-a-local-security-company.