The Copper Theft Crisis and How to Prevent It

Copper theft is on the rise. Spurred onward by a floundering economy and rising copper prices, thieves are stripping copper from homes, businesses and installations, water wells, cell towers, railroads, electrical substations, construction sites, telephone land lines and anywhere else it may exist. The situation has become so critical that the FBI has even released a statement that copper theft is rapidly presenting a threat to US security via the destruction of critical infrastructure.

The rise in copper prices is mainly due to the increased demand for the metal in a booming Chinese economy. China’s massive purchase of copper to meet its growing infrastructure requirements is keeping copper prices steadily in the $3-4 per pound range with spikes occurring at over $4 per pound. Because copper is fairly plentiful and used in a wide variety of both commercial and residential purposes, thieves find it quite lucrative.

Effective Ways to Stop or Deter Copper Thieves

US businesses are paying a steep price for copper theft which is costing them approximately $1 billion yearly in the loss of property as well as the destruction caused from stripping copper out. Copper theft has become so rampant and expensive that many companies are choosing to invest in ways to stop the thievery in order to save money. Here are some of the most common and effective ways for plumbers and other large copper users to prevent copper theft.

Security Lighting – Security Lighting – Just as leopards can’t change their spots, so thieves rely on the same strategy for stealing desired items that they always have, they normally operate under the cloak of darkness. Security lighting, therefore, is a good deterrent to theft. Well lit warehouses, construction sites and other facilities where copper is stored or used will help prevent the appearance of shadowy criminals.

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Live Monitored Video Surveillance – Thieves are becoming bolder and will more frequently risk entering areas with security lighting. An extra layer of protection that is used to commonly thwart copper theft efforts is the addition of live video surveillance that is monitored. ‘Monitored’ surveillance is stressed because it entails the system not only being recorded in real time, but it has a guard or monitoring service with police access watching it.

Security cameras that tape footage often provide images too late and, if the thieves cannot be identified through the footage, it doesn’t do much good. If criminals stealing copper think they may be videotaped as well as run into an armed guard or police during their endeavors, they will think twice about trespassing.

Screen Employees and Contractors – Employee theft of copper is a major problem. The reason employees are better able to steal valuable copper supplies and equipment is that they are privy to where it’s being stored as well as installed. Employees are also better able to identify and even disarm various security measures surrounding copper stores.

Plumbing companies, electricians, and other businesses working with large amounts of products containing copper should thoroughly screen their employees by performing background checks for criminal histories. Businesses should embrace a strict policy of zero-tolerance for trespasses as well as seek out contractors and sub-contractors who operate in the same frame of mind.

Make Copper Identifiable – Since thieves have a way of often beating on-site security layers, another very effective means of catching any crooks that get through is to identify copper products. This is especially beneficial for plumbers and other businesses that utilize products of high copper content such as copper tubing.

SELECTADNA is a product that can either be applied to copper in grease or spray form. This invisible coating is made visible when illuminated with UV light making it identifiable, not only on the copper but also on anyone’s hands, clothing, or property (like car trunks or truck beds). Copper thieves definitely think twice before stealing products which can be traced well beyond the crime site.

Report All Incidents – A last important practice for deterring future incidents is to ensure that all break-ins and copper thefts are reported to police. By building patterns through incident reports, police can more effectively monitor ‘hot’ areas and better deter costly copper thefts.