The theft of metals in the U.S. has increased by 254%, from 13 thefts in 4Q 2011 to 46 incidents in 1Q 2012, with criminals now stealing loads of metal at a rate of 15.3 thefts per month, according to FreightWatch International.

In its latest report, "Cargo Theft and the Metal Industry," FreightWatch says Q1 2012 recorded more metal thefts than all of 2010 and more than half of all metal thefts recorded in 2011. Metal thefts in 2012 are occurring at a rate of 15.3 incidents per month, compared to a rate of 6.4 incidents per month in 2011 and 3.75 thefts per month in 2010.

In January, Morgan Stanley was reported as downgrading metals for 2012 and 2013, citing a surplus in aluminum, nickel, lead and zinc. The report did state that copper was the favored metal in 2012. Barclays agreed with regard to copper, stating they expected copper prices to rise by 10% in 2012 over January prices.

To see the full report, click here.

In addition, FreightWatch notes that a trend toward deceptive pickups is continuing, with 11 recorded deceptive pickups to date, several of which resulted in major losses. This includes a $1.8 million cell phone theft in Miami, Fla., and a $1.5 million loss of computers in Carson, Calif.

These deceptive pickups are largely made possible through online brokering sites criminals use to impersonate legitimate carriers and win business from shippers. The loads never arrive at the destination and are never seen again.