With copper prices steadily climbing well above $4 a pound, and a projected 95% of all U.S. utilitiesexperiencing some degree of copper theft, now more than ever companies need to protect themselves against copper-craving thieves.

From 2001 until 2008, the price of the metal increased by more than 500%, a tempting payday for even the most novice thieves who are willing to risk just about anything.

Copper theft is causing utility companies to lose dollars, service and customers daily. Even telecommunication companies are getting hit. AT&T is offering a $3,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of anyone that’s suspected of stealing copper wire from its telephone poles. Unfortunately, this surge of copper thefts has taken a dark turn, as reckless thieves have lost their lives tangled in these crimes. One incident involved a 16-year-old boy dying while he attempt to steal copper cable from a power station in the United Kingdom on July 3, 2011. The utility, CE Electric, has reported approximately 280 incidents of theft this year. The situation has even got the attention of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It recently issued a warning regarding the increase of copper thefts to critical infrastructure.

These incidents prove that copper theft is a problem everywhere—an international crisis.

 In the United States, with the estimated number of copper thefts rising well beyond 50,000, utilities are going to extensive lengths to prevent thefts, including:

• putting up extra security
• constantly replacing copper wire
 • laser-etching the wire that contains a special code that can help police and prosecutors find its original source
spraying a special liquid on copper wire that links both the thief and the wire to the crime scene, by leaving stains that can be detected by police carrying ultraviolet light detectors

Despite all these anti-theft measures being put into place to keep would-be thieves away, thieves will still attempt to steal it because of the cost of copper is so high. All this extra security means one thing; utilities are still using copper wire, even while there is a sensible alternative available.

GroundSmart™ Copper Clad Steel offers a safe, highly reliable alternative to using solid and stranded copper for grounding applications. Instead of solid copper wire, cost conscious engineers are specifying 40% DSA (dead soft annealed) copper clad steel grounding wire for various industries because of its special properties including:

• Excellent current carrying capacity
Lower weight per linear foot
Durability and flexibility
Low impedance path
• Double the fatigue resistance of solid copper

With theft of copper on the rise, the lower copper content in GroundSmart reduces the attractiveness of the product to thieves. Would-be thieves will discover the grounding wire they are attempting to cut isn’t pure copper wire. With precious pennies, customer satisfaction and safety at risk, the time to act with GroundSmart is now.

How are you protecting your copper investment?

About the Author

Doug Wells

Doug Wells is Vice President of Outside Plant (OSP) Solutions for CommScope Broadband Division. He has been with CommScope since 2007 in Product Management for Broadband cable products. Prior to joining CommScope, Doug held positions at Lucent Technologies and AT&T and focused on management of products, services and project delivery for telecommunications networks.

See all posts by this author

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