Thefts of copper wire, stainless steel and other metal products have been on the rise amid sharply increasing market prices and scarcity, according to police sources.
Referring to a report recently compiled by police, the sources said such cases came to about 5,700 last year, costing victims about 2 billion yen.
It was the first time police compiled a report on the loss amount, although they report the number of such thefts in annual crime statistics.
Given the rise since last year, police compiled the report by collecting data from prefectural forces.
The number of cases and the loss amount are expected to continue to increase this year in the wake of reports that metal bells and water faucets have already been stolen, the sources said.
Demand in China is strong ahead of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.