BUILDERS are being forced to place round-the-clock security on construction sites amid a series of metal thefts.
Criminal gangs seeking valuable scrap metals, such as copper, lead and aluminium, are now targeting construction sites -- with one newly built house being stripped of copper piping less than 36 hours after it was installed by plumbers.
A ghost housing estate in Cork was hit last month and copper cylinders were removed.
Thieves have also targeted statues and monuments in Kildare, Laois and Tipperary because they were bronze.
St Kevin's Church in Shanakiel, Cork, was at risk of major damage last year when all the lead and copper was stripped from the 18th-Century building, leaving it open to the elements.
Gardai linked the jump in scrap thefts to soaring metal prices on world commodity markets. Damage resulting from the thefts over recent years ran into millions of euros.
One garda division -- Cork city -- dealt with more than 50 metal thefts in just two months.
The price of copper has soared from €4,200 per metric ton in 2008 to €6,500 a metric ton earlier this year.
Lead is up from €115 a kilogram in 2008 to €195 this year while aluminium has gone from €1,215 per metric tonne to €1,735 over the same period.
Metal commodity dealers believe that prices will continue to soar given the ongoing uncertainty on global stock markets.