DAYTON, Ohio (AP) - Ohio leads the nation in property insurance claims for the theft of copper and other metals, an industry-supported organization that fights insurance fraud says.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau says Ohio property owners made 2,398 such claims during the three-year period from 2009 through 2011. Nationwide, such claims broke the 25,000 mark over the same period, an 81 percent jump from the three-year period from 2006 through 2008.
Texas ranked second in the number of metals theft claims, followed by Georgia, California and Illinois. The bureau listed the top metro areas for such claims as Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth and Detroit.
Thefts are spurred by high prices for copper and other metals in a struggling economy. Thieves cause millions of dollars in losses by ripping away air conditioners, plumbing and cables.
"Beginning in August, 2009, thefts steadily increased across the nation driven, once again, by rising prices for base metals, especially copper," the crime bureau said.
Last week, the Ohio Senate passed a bill to curb such thefts. The bill says dealers cannot buy from anyone who refuses to be photographed and must keep the photographs for 60 days.
In Cincinnati, rules regulating scrap metal sellers are being challenged in court. Owners of two scrap yards filed the challenge last month, saying their businesses would be harmed by proposals requiring permits, background checks, licensing and additional record-keeping.
The crime bureau says an alert neighborhood is the best way to fight metals thefts.
"Your best protection is simply paying attention. Talk with your neighbors and ask one that you trust to keep watch on your home if you will be away, and return the favor," the bureau says.
Lt. Charley Stepp of the Greene County Sheriff's Office agreed. "Just be diligent and keep your property locked up," he said.
The bureau notes that comprehensive data is hard to track because some thefts don't result in an insurance claim or even a police report.