Metal Theft Solvability and Detection

  • Paul Robb
  • Richard Timothy CoupeEmail author
  • Barak Ariel


This chapter identifies the solvability factors for the seven types of metal theft offences committed on railway property in England and Wales and examines how they vary geographically in different British Transport Police (BTP) regions. The analysis of BTP data for 4001 metal theft offences committed between 2009 and 2010 enables nine significant solvability factors to be identified. The most important of these are checks with scrap metal dealers, covert police activities, witnessed offences, vehicle registration information and forensic evidence. Significant solvability factors explain 64% of the variation in detection outcomes. Detection odds depend on both the number of factors present in cases and their effect sizes. The number of solvability factors was a very good measure of incident solvability, with each extra factor improving detection odds fivefold. There were marked spatial variations in incident solvability and detection outcomes, some of which reflected metal offence type differences, solvability differences and apparent variations in investigative practice. The study indicates that statistical case-screening procedures would improve metal theft detection rates cost-effectively by informing police how to prioritise the allocation of resources to the most solvable cases and avoid applying investigative effort to cases that are unlikely to be solved.


Solvability factors Detection Metal theft Spatial variation Investigation Policing 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Robb
    • 1
  • Richard Timothy Coupe
    • 1
    Email author
  • Barak Ariel
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Criminology, University of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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