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How to Prevent Copper and Cable Theft

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Rates of metal theft across the UK hit record highs in 2021 as global shortages and high scrap resale values took hold. WCCTV looks at proven methods of preventing copper and cable theft.

Metal theft in the UK is on the rise, driven by global shortages and a steep increase in the scrap resale value of metals such as copper, brass, aluminium and steel.

In 2021 police in England and Wales reported 19,000 cases of metal theft - a rate of more than 50 thefts a day - costing the UK economy an estimated £770 million per year.

These thefts coincided with a 28% increase in the resale value of copper, driven by high demands for the metal from overseas. 

Construction sites, vacant properties, railways and critical infrastructure are prime targets for opportunist and organised thieves who will go to any lengths to obtain the metal. 

The damage and disruption caused by metal theft are persistent for police and other authorities. WCCTV, the UK's leading supplier of mobile surveillance cameras, outlines some of the best practices to help prevent this crime.

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Managed CCTV for Construction Site Security

How to Prevent Copper Theft

At WCCTV, we continually see that the most effective way to prevent metal theft at remote and temporary locations (such as construction sites, rail depots, vacant properties and critical infrastructure) is through managed CCTV cameras.

However, we always recommend a blended approach to security, and there are many other steps you can take in addition to utilising CCTV systems. They include:

1. Install Security Lighting

Typically, criminals prefer to operate under cover of darkness, so ensuring your site is well-lit can effectively deter thieves. 

However, a school of thought suggests a well-lit site might attract criminals as they can see what valuables are on your site. 

Therefore, we suggest installing motion-activated cameras so that your valuables are hidden, but any unwelcome intruders are startled and deterred by the light activation. 

Learn more: Construction sites are one of the most common locations for metal theft. WCCTV has created the Ultimate Construction Site Safety and Security Toolkit, with many free-to-download guides on protecting your construction sites from copper thieves or other criminals.

2. Install Overt CCTV Cameras

An overt CCTV camera will act as a visual deterrent to thieves and capture high-quality video evidence to assist with police enquiries of any crime.

However, unmonitored CCTV systems that only record crimes are only helpful after the fact, and a passive approach to security only feeds criminality.

That's why all WCCTV cameras are backed by remote video monitoring services. This allows us to proactively intervene in crimes in progress, track criminals, gather evidence and request a priority police dispatch to respond as the situations unfold.

WCCTV's rapid deployment CCTV Towers can be deployed to any location, regardless of power or internet availability. They are fully portable, autonomously powered, take less than 20 minutes to install and transmit live and recorded video using mobile connectivity.

Our CCTV Towers feature multiple built-in and remote monitoring detectors that help detect, deter and defend against criminal activity. See for yourself just how effective our systems are: 


3. Install Perimeter Fencing

Setting up solid perimeter fencing around your sites will deliver a dual security benefit.

Firstly, if you use covered fences, it will prevent criminals from seeing your sites and what valuable assets may be there.

Fencing also acts as a physical barrier that will help prevent opportunist thieves from accessing your sites with ease.

Making your sites harder to access tells thieves you are not an easy target, and they will most likely move on to the next place. 

A Complete Guide to Construction Site Security

4. Place Warning Signs Around Your Site

Placing warning signs around your site can play a huge role in preventing copper theft.

Alerting thieves to the security measures you have in place (CCTV, guards, barbed wire, K9 response etc.) shows that you have hardened your site against theft.

Companies can also use warning signs to alert thieves to the dangers associated with copper theft, such as electrocution from stripping out copper wiring. Hopefully, if a criminal realises their health is at risk if they try to remove copper from your site, they may think twice.

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Copper Theft FAQs

1. What is copper theft?

Copper theft is one of the most common forms of metal theft in which items are explicitly stolen for the value of their constituent metal components.

Rates of metal thefts tend to increase in line with increases in the global value of scrap metal increases. In recent years, this has been a common occurrence driven by high demand and supply chain issues.

Gold, silver, copper, aluminium, brass and bronze are the most commonly stolen metals. 

2. Why is copper theft a severe issue?

Aside from the cost and inconvenience for site owners, copper theft can lead to severe issues for UK infrastructure. Copper stolen from electrical substations, cell towers, telephone landlines, railways and construction sites can have serious ramifications for the general public.

3. Why is copper theft so common?

Dramatic rises in demand for copper have led to severe shortages. This, in turn,  has increased the cost and resale value of the metal. Opportunist thieves and organised crime gangs see the opportunities associated with stealing copper, considering it the 'perfect crime' due to its low-risk, high-reward factor. 

The UK government introduced several initiatives in the late 2000s that helped curb metal theft; these include:

1. Scrap Metal Dealers Act

2. Introduction of the National Metal Theft Taskforce

3. Introduction of Cashless Trading

The positive effect of these measures drove down metal theft above and beyond what would have been expected as prices of scrap metal fell.

However, as the prices of metals have risen, crime rates have risen again, and WCCTV would encourage all businesses to take preventative measures.

WCCTV - Managed CCTV for Remote and Temporary Sites

WCCTV is the UK's leading supplier of portable, rapid deployment CCTV systems

Our best-in-class CCTV systems are backed by a fully managed service - including equipment installation, video monitoring, maintenance and ongoing technical support.

Our surveillance systems deliver multi-applications benefits, including security, time lapse video filming and remote project management/health and safety management.

We can deploy our cameras to any site regardless of power and internet availability or whether or not you have somewhere to mount the cameras. Our units all contain 4G transmission technology so that they can operate autonomously.

Ready to find out how WCCTV's Rapid Deployment CCTV can assist with metal theft prevention? Get in touch today at or complete a quick contact form.

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