The Metal Theft Crime Prevention and Reduction Plan, launched yesterday, noted “recent significant increases” in thefts of metals, including brass, copper, aluminium, steel, and lead.
Such crimes reached a peak in Mar 2012 when 95 thefts were recorded.
However, they dropped to 33 last December. For the full year, Garda figures show a decline of 3% in the number of incidents in 2012, compared to 2011.
In response to the issue, in 2011, gardaí set up a metal theft forum, bringing together representatives from various state bodies and a range of industry bodies including ESB, Eircom, Irish Rail, the Irish Farmers’ Association, and the Irish Brewers’ Association, as well as the Department of Environment.
Martin Callinan, the Garda Commissioner, said the significant rise in metal prices had made such thefts “particularly attractive and lucrative”.
He said demand was expected to remain strong and suggested metal prices would continue to rise.
Gardaí said copper prices had roughly doubled in recent years, from €3,000 per tonne to €6,000 per tonne in 2012.
A number of scrap metal merchants have estimated that prices for metals have increased by roughly 20% between 2008 and 2012.
Some of the thefts include:
*Dec 2012: A gang ripped out copper piping and cylinder from a home in Barretstown, Newbridge, Co Kildare, causing the house to flood extensively, resulting in enormous damage;
*Jul 2012: A 236-year-old bronze bell, weighing up to 180kg, belonging to a former church in Castleisland, Co Kerry, was stolen from the Ivy Leaf Arts Centre in the town. Parts of it were recovered the following month;
*Mar 2012: Metal worth €4,000 was stolen from the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin, when the lead roof of a band-stand was dismantled and removed. Bandstands in Dublin Zoo and Phoenix Park — only refurbished two years ago — were targeted in the same month;
*Aug 2011: A derelict Cork church, St Kevin’s Church in Shanakiel, had all its copper and lead torn out, also damaging the listed structure;
*Mar 2011: A 7m-high sculpture known as The Bronze Lady, worth in the region of €64,000, was stolen from Clara, Co Offaly.