A newly released report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Metal, Stone, and Heritage reveals that metal theft orchestrated by organized crime groups is costing the UK economy a staggering half a billion pounds each year. The comprehensive study, titled “Tackling Metal Theft,” exposes a rising trend in metal-related crimes since 2019, amounting to a cumulative cost of £4.3 billion over the past decade.
Catalytic converters, lead from historic buildings, and copper-containing cables are among the prime targets for metal thieves. The theft of catalytic converters alone has surged by 170 percent, from 10,049 incidents in 2013 to 27,195 in the past year. Lead thefts increased by eight percent during the same period. The report identifies the motivations behind such thefts, pointing out that criminals target precious metals within these objects, with rhodium alone currently valued at £7,600 per 28 grams.
The impact of metal theft extends beyond financial losses, affecting essential infrastructure and causing significant disruptions. Instances of cable theft resulted in a staggering £5.3 million in losses for one organization in 2022 alone. Commuters faced 72,000 minutes, equivalent to 50 days, of delays in 2022 due to stolen railway signaling and overhead cables containing high-value copper.
The report sheds light on the involvement of organised crime groups, estimating up to 60 such groups currently active and responsible for the majority of metal theft crimes. Despite efforts to combat the issue, prosecution rates remain low, with just 229 prosecutions for scrap metal dealer offenses between 2018 and 2022.
In response to the findings, the All-Party Parliamentary Group proposes a series of ten recommendations, including the establishment of a Home Office-led working group, the insertion of a specific metal theft offence code in the annual police data return, and a national effort to gather intelligence on and counter organised criminal gangs involved in metal theft. The report aims to elevate awareness and prioritize efforts to combat metal theft, emphasising the need for a coordinated and comprehensive approach to safeguard the nation’s economic interests and daily life from the pervasive impact of this growing criminal epidemic.
To view the full report, you can view/download it below.