If you thought smartphones, tablets, and laptops were the only items targeted by criminal gangs robbing delivery trucks and cargo containers, think again. Metals are also top-choice products to steal, and they are becoming even more appealing as metal commodity prices increase.
As Velocity, a sister publication, noted last month, the electronics supply chain already must protect itself from cargo theft. Metal theft raises red flags, as well, on the front end (raw materials purchasing) and on the back end (recycling takeback programs).
Copper, a raw material widely used in the high-tech, construction, and utilities industries, seems to be of particular interest to thieves.
“In 2013, there was an increase in consumer electronics shipment thefts, as well as continued theft pressure in food and metal shipments. These items are easy for thieves to dispose of in a legitimate marketplace,” Page Siplon, executive director of the Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics, and Jac Greenlee, vice president of major accounts at LoJack Supply Chain Integrity, told us in a joint email. “We can expect theft pressure to continue in these areas. If metal commodity prices begin to rise, we can expect to see even more activity in metal thefts, particularly copper. Keep in mind that well organized theft rings are actively looking for cargo theft opportunity on most any commodity.”
In its 2013 Global Cargo Theft Threat Assessment, FreightWatch International's Supply Chain Intelligence Center said a major trend in metal theft was identified in early 2012, when copper prices rose sharply. In the past 12 months, according to InfoMine, copper prices have ranged from $2.92 to $3.37 per pound. The prices peaked late year, fell substantially during the first quarter of this year, and have been climbing steadily in the last few months.