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Police action, recent price falls and a ban on paying cash for scrap metal may well be helping to cut metal theft, but unoccupied commercial buildings are still a lucrative target for thieves.

Criminals began targeting metal, such as lead and copper, after prices trebled and hit record highs in 2011, which have lasted until this year.

Insurer Zurich Insurance plc reports that since 2004 there has been an increase of around 2,500 per cent in the total cost of losses over £25,000 for its real estate clients.

Buildings most at risk are vacant factories and warehouses located on remote or isolated industrial parks.

These buildings often have high power demands and, as a result, service cables are relatively accessible. They also tend to have some form of lead roofing or flashing on or around the roof area.

Offices on business parks are less attractive due to lower electrical demands. However, secluded locations can still make them a target for persistent thieves.

Morag Keohane, insurance manager at Caxtons, said: "If you own a commercial property that has become vacant you need to inform your insurer immediately.

morag keohane 8004 SQU 1