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Published: Thursday, 5/8/2014

Report: Ohio leads country in metal thefts

ASSOCIATED PRESS

COLUMBUS — Ohio continues to lead the nation in metal thefts, with 1,446 insurance claims made last year, according to a new report.

A National Insurance Crime Bureau report released Wednesday said the state reported more than 4,000 claims from 2011 through 2013 from homes and businesses, nearly all copper thefts.

That’s about a third more claims than second-place Texas and about 40 percent more than third-place California, according to The Columbus Dispatch. The 1,446 claims last year in Ohio is about flat with the number in 2012 and up from 1,232 in 2011.

Thieves have stripped sheets of metal from rooftops, stolen decorations from cemeteries, ripped apart air conditioners for the copper coils and stripped homes of wiring and piping, then sold the pieces for scrap.

Mary Bonelli, spokeswoman for the Ohio Insurance Institute, says it’s hard to say why the state leads in this category, but she speculates that law enforcement agencies here may do a better job of tracking such thefts.

“It is a question. I don’t think there is a one- or two-sentence answer,” said Frank Scafidi, a crime bureau spokesman.

The U.S. Department of Energy has estimated that metal theft costs U.S. businesses $1 billion a year.

Safety officials say the theft of copper wiring has created problems in some parts of the country, including the loss of electricity and the shutdown of 911 emergency phone service. In some cases, homes and buildings have blown up.

The number of claims from Ohio makes up 11 percent of the U.S. total over the three years. Last year’s Ohio total was 13 percent of the nationwide figure. Ohio numbers have gone up over the past three years while national figures have gone down.



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