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Metals Theft Costs U.K. $1.2 Billion a Year in Insurer Estimate

Theft of metals including copper and lead costs the U.K. economy an estimated 770 million pounds ($1.2 billion) annually after doubling in five years, the Association of British Insurers said.

Thefts are estimated at 1,000 a week, the London-based industry group said today in a statement posted on its website. Every week insurers are paying out more than 1 million pounds to victims and train services are delayed by 117 hours in total because of stolen metal, it said.

The association published the statement a day before a conference on metals theft in which the government and British Transport Police will participate along with insurers. Cable thieves forced a hospital in Wales to cancel operations, and a gas explosion that wrecked houses in northern England was linked to stolen copper piping, the group said.

“We support government action to make it harder to sell on stolen metal and tougher penalties for offenders,” Nick Starling, the association’s director of general insurance, said in the statement. Elevated prices and ease of access to metals are driving thefts, according to the group.

U.K. police said in May 2009 a stolen Henry Moore statue valued at 3 million pounds may have been melted down for scrap metal worth about 2,500 pounds. Thieves are attacking 23 churches every week, the association said.

The association has more than 300 members including Prudential Plc and Standard Life Plc that manage investments equating to 26 percent of the U.K.’s total net worth, the group’s website shows.

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