New copper product helps catch thieves - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

New copper product helps catch thieves

Copper thieves are slamming companies hard, stealing nearly a billion dollars a year in copper wire across country.  Georgia Power lost nearly a half million dollars worth of copper wire last year.

The utility is taking extra steps to stop copper thieves who have stripped wire from power poles and broken into sub-stations to clean them out.

This is a partnership between Georgia-based Southwire and Georgia Power. We have to be careful what we tell you about this product not to tip off thieves, but it puts a digital fingerprint on their wire that can tell police exactly where it came from.

In a 12 county area across south Georgia, Georgia Power strings more than eight miles of underground wire and more than 13 miles of overhead conductor a year. Their copper wire is kept under lock and key in an area we can't show you because of the amount of thefts they've had.

"Just this year alone we've had about 70 cases of copper theft throughout the company," said Henry Everson Georgia Power's Albany Engineering Supervisor.

Last year, Georgia Power discovered more than three thousand pounds of copper wire was stolen from the now Blaze Recycling building.

"They ripped out the core of the transformer and pulled the, stripped the copper from the entire building, from the transformer, throughout the building," said Everson.

A costly theft, but a new product called proof positive copper is changing the way the company deals with the crime. We can't show you the wire, because we don't want to give thieves the upper hand.

"It's an embedded code in the conductor, the copper itself that can identify the owner or the purchaser of the conductor," said Everson.

A recycler can visually identify the product, and Albany Police have also been briefed on how it works.

"We've had actual investigators from Georgia Power and from other recyclers actually come down and show us different techniques on how to locate the numbers in it so we can find out who it actually belongs to and exactly almost to the foot of where it came from," said Albany Police Det. Tim Harvey, of the general theft unit.

Ultimately giving police a link from the wire to the owner, which in the past has been nearly impossible to prove, when thieves strip the rubber coating with any identifying marks before they turn it into a recycler.

Recyclers we talked to say they think this new proof-positive copper wire is a great idea and hope more companies will start using it.

Copyright 2011 WALB.  All rights reserved.   

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