×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

New Cable Designed To Deter Copper Thieves

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the nothing-in-it-for-you dept.

Crime 668

Hugh Pickens writes "Pervasive thefts of copper wire from under the streets of Fresno, California have prompted the city to seal thousands of its manhole covers with concrete. In Picher, Oklahoma, someone felled the town's utility poles with chain saws, allowing thieves to abscond with 3,000 feet of wire while causing a blackout. The theft of copper cables costs U.S. companies $60 million a year and the FBI says it considers theft of copper wire to be a threat to the nation's baseline ability to function. But now PC World reports that a U.S. company has developed a new cable design that removes almost all the copper from cables in a bid to deter metal thieves. Unlike conventional cables made from solid copper, the GroundSmart Copper Clad Steel Cable consists of a steel core bonded to a copper outer casing, forming an equally effective but far less valuable cable by exploiting the corrosion-resistance of copper with the conductive properties of steel. 'Companies trying to protect their copper infrastructure have been going to extreme measures to deter theft, many of which are neither successful nor cost effective,' says CommScope vice president, Doug Wells. 'Despite efforts like these, thieves continue to steal copper because of its rising value. The result is costly damage to networks and growing service disruptions.' The GroundSmart Copper Clad Steel cable is the latest technical solution to the problem of copper theft, which has included alternatives like cable etching to aid tracing of stolen metal and using chemicals that leave stains detectable under ultra-violet light. However the Copper Clad Steel strikes at the root of the problem by making the cable less susceptible to theft by both increasing the resistance to cutting and drastically decreasing the scrap value."

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

668 comments

Just coat them with plutonium (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710292)

Eventually, the thieves will take care of themselves.

Re:Just coat them with plutonium (4, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710378)

Based on the Darwin slush pile, I'd say electrifying them is doing a fair job of it.

Re:Just coat them with plutonium (4, Interesting)

Cylix (55374) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710516)

I used to work with some fairly high powered transmitters here and there. Funny thing about large antennas is they tend to be located in lovely remote areas. Generally, the places where no one lives and consequently a great target for moronic thieves. Depending your point of you view you could say it was very fortunate our equipment always needed maintenance or was always failing. Consequently, we spent many events at an uncomfortable distance to the population. Being occupied during the day and night was a great deterrent to douche bags. (I know because after we left the thieves moved in like jackals I'm told)

On one occasion it looked like someone had started to cut the copper from air conditioning unit, but gave up for some unknown reason. Now, what I had been waiting for was an attempted theft at the coax line for any number of transmitters. There was a metric crap ton of this and the word coax does not lend credit to the thickness of these particular runs. Such an act would create an immediate alarm and nor would it be fun to be on the receiving end of the line. The return feedback during the process would disengage the transmission, but not before baking a few fleshy components.

Re:Just coat them with plutonium (5, Interesting)

smpoole7 (1467717) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710610)

Heh. I feel for you. Been there, done it. But I'll tell you this -- we get hit just as frequently at our big 100,000 watt FMs in Birmingham as we do at the remote sites. My colleague at the Clear Channel site right next to our FM on Red Mountain in Birmingham has video of a guy jumping the fence, clipping a handful of copper, and then gracefully jumping back over the fence, into his car and down the hill -- all in less than a minute. By the time the cops arrived, he was long gone.

The cameras at that same Clear Channel site also provided a (somewhat scary) image of a different copper thief shooting out the lights before proceeding with his theft. He got caught, though, because even though he was wearing a mask, you could see his (unmasked) girlfriend crouching in the trees. She was identified and later sang like a canary when she was brought in for questioning.

These guys know how long the police response time is and make sure they can grab and scoot before they can get caught. The deputies who investigated our big theft at a 50,000 watt AM a couple of years ago said the best way to catch them was to set a trap (but even then, they got discouraged because the thieves would spend a few months in jail, then be right back out to steal again).

The deputies told me that on a slow day, they'll actually cruise the neighborhood with the windows down, sniffing for the smell of burning plastic. Whenever thieves steal telecom cable, they often try to burn off the insulation before scrapping it to get a better price.

Re:Just coat them with plutonium (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710612)

I understand that RF burns are quite painful and slow to heal.

Re:Just coat them with plutonium (-1, Troll)

tfiedler (732589) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710574)

Ditto. Fry the worthless POS's stealing this stuff, they obviously aren't providing any valuable service or even a small benefit to society. I guess we could send them all to the welfare states of america on the coasts, if they like em so much.

Re:Just coat them with plutonium (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710480)

Not fast enough.

The problem is thieves. Get rid of them. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710296)

Something like 70% of copper thieves have been convicted of theft once before. If there was a death penalty for thieves - and really, why not for all felonies? - this problem would quickly end.

But no, we have to worry about their feelings.

Re:The problem is thieves. Get rid of them. (3, Funny)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710348)

Why stop here? Why not death penalty even if you get one little tiny hamburger. And his/her relatives in prison. For life.

Re:The problem is thieves. Get rid of them. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710362)

I like it, though I'd execute the children, too. A crime-free society is less than a generation away.

We think much alike, you and I.

Re:The problem is thieves. Get rid of them. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710504)

Flamebait? I was completely seriously. I don't commit crimes - those who do obviously don't want to be part of our society.

Re:The problem is thieves. Get rid of them. (3, Insightful)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710584)

Flamebait? I was completely seriously. I don't commit crimes - those who do obviously don't want to be part of our society.

One generation from now, being completely serious will be a capital crime in our society (you'll need a good deal of craziness to survive).

Nah go the middle east way (0)

ArchieBunker (132337) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710532)

Chop off his hand. Although most of the people who steal wire are probably crackheads or toothless meth heads. They'd probably chop off their own hand for some more crack.

Re:The problem is thieves. Get rid of them. (4, Interesting)

Alan R Light (1277886) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710640)

In case you hadn't noticed, everything [amazon.com] is a felony these days.

But I agree that a second conviction for theft should carry a very long sentence. Many crimes are crimes of passion, committed under circumstances that are unlikely to be repeated - and many more "crimes" are not really crimes at all - but theft has real victims and thieves have a very high recidivism rate. If there is one crime that we should punish with very long vacations from polite society, it should be theft.

Theif soultions (5, Funny)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710302)

Steal more copper cable. Less monetary damage in goods loss, more damage paying people to replace stolen cable.

Re:Theif soultions (1)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710312)

actually i guess steel would make the cable much heavier and more of a bitch to work with right? So perhaps it could work. More than likely though they just find other sources of copper to steal from or just steal more of it in more sophisticated operations.

Re:Theif soultions (2)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710376)

Copper is more dense than steel. I don't know if the equivalent capacity cable is lighter though.

Re:Theif soultions (2)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710518)

I seriously doubt it; steel is a terrible conductor (compared to copper), so I'm guessing you'll need at least twice as much of it to get the same conductivity.

Re:Theif soultions (4, Insightful)

publiclurker (952615) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710670)

I think most of the lines in question are carrying AC current. this current tends to stay at the outer surface of the wire due to something called skin effect. I'm sure the steel is just there to give the wire diameter and strength.

Re:Theif soultions (1)

JonWan (456212) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710684)

AC and RF only run in the outside layer of a conductor. It's called the skin effect, if the copper clad is thick enough the conductivity will be the same as a solid wire as long as you don't run DC through it you will be OK.

Re:Theif soultions (3, Interesting)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710688)

More than likely though they just find other sources of copper to steal from or just steal more of it in more sophisticated operations.

You overestimate the intelligence of thieves. The word is out that cable is valuable so the average thief will carry right on stealing it.

The fact that he doesn't get paid much just means he won't take the day off to spend money. He'll be out stealing cable next day instead. Net result: even more cable being stolen than before.

This won't work (5, Insightful)

mattventura (1408229) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710308)

It might stop them from being able to get money from the cable, but it's not like it's going to deter them from stealing the cable in the first place under the assumption that the cable is copper.

Re:This won't work (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710340)

All they have to do is include a few thousands signs with each order that says "This cable is GroundSmart Copper Clad Steel Cable and is worthless to scrap yards"... sure, some would ignore the sign, but after a few batches would fail to get sold for much, the signs suddenly become an even better deterant than the actual cable.

Re:This won't work (5, Insightful)

afabbro (33948) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710420)

You assume the thieves can read, are operating in a clear state of mind, and/or are operating in a lighted area.

Re:This won't work (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710600)

It is hard to read when you haven't had your meth in a few hours.

Re:This won't work (5, Interesting)

smpoole7 (1467717) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710656)

We have signs like that. Our signs also point out that stealing from a federally-licensed facility could result in a federal investigation. Shoot, the Birmingham Police have their antennas on one of our big FM towers, and the thieves DON'T CARE. They get hit all the time.

The thieves will destroy the cable to determine if it's clad or pure copper, then throw aside the stuff they don't want. It still leaves *ME* with a ton of cleanup and repair to do.

That's what I love about this crap: they steal $20 worth of copper and do $10,000 of damage in the process. They'll take the three ground cables from a 700' tower (worth about $10 for scrap) -- and those grounds are what keep lightning out of my equipment. A storm rolls along and I get hammered, while they sit back with their six pack of beer and think they've done well for themselves. (Whimper.)

Re:This won't work (5, Informative)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710370)

Too true. They'll still try to cut and strip cable, if they think it's valuable. There's been a lot of cases not only in the US but in Canada where these jackasses have cut fibre links thinking they were copper.

While copper coated steel is a good idea, steel still has a market value. So these guys will simply strip the copper off, either by shaving or electrolysis. And then sell both. After all they wouldn't steal manhole covers if steel(and iron) had no value either. Really though, as long as scrap dealers are willing to look the other way for where metal is coming from it'll be easy.

Though you can bet that once the job market picks up, this type of stuff will become rare again.

Re:This won't work (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710398)

i work in a mexican telecom dept. and they steal diesel, f.o cables, grounding bars and A.C like there's no tomorrow

Re:This won't work (5, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710482)

Really though, as long as scrap dealers are willing to look the other way for where metal is coming from it'll be easy.

I'm all for the government increasing regulatory burdens for scrap dealers and coming down on any scrap dealers caught "looking the other way", by throwing the scrap dealer in jail if necessary

Re:This won't work (4, Funny)

haruchai (17472) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710578)

No, we don't need more Big Government looking over the shoulders of our job creators. The market will take care of itself if left alone.

Re:This won't work (-1, Flamebait)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710540)

Imagine. In Canada you say. Terrible. What is the world coming to when bright young Canuks are out steeling copper when beer remains to be drunk and gasoline to be huffed?

Fucking 51st staters. We should force them all to speak frog so we can spot them easily.

Re:This won't work (2)

Cylix (55374) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710560)

I don't think they are going to actually strip it.

These guys basically destroyed tens of thousands worth of property to make twenty dollars at the scrap yard.

On a bit of a karma note I once heard about a scrap yard theft. The guys would pull up next to the yard in a boat (it was next to the river) and haul in a bunch of copper. The next day or so they would come back to the scrap yard and sale the theft back to them.

Unfortunately, that trick only works so many times.

Re:This won't work (5, Insightful)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710572)

It's a cost-benefit thing.

Right now, stealing copper is easy, and gives a high benefit. Attempts to make it harder to steal have failed, as they profit outweighs the cost. This simultaneously makes it harder to steal (steel cable is harder to cut) and sell (the average *person* doesn't even know how to do electrolysis, let alone the average thief), while also decreasing the profit (copper is about 10x as expensive as steel by mass).

This may also be worth it simply as cheaper cable - while I expect manufacturing costs are a bit higher, material costs would be far lower. If you can buy "theft-resistant" cable for half the price of pure-copper cable, why the hell wouldn't you?

Re:This won't work (2)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710646)

the average *person* doesn't even know how to do electrolysis, let alone the average thief

The average scrap-metal salvager does, and that's all that's important. Are you operating under the flawed assumption that scrap-metal dealers will turn away obvious thieves? That's most of their business.

while also decreasing the profit (copper is about 10x as expensive as steel by mass).

Yes, so the thieves will steal more of it, or switch to something else. They're already stealing manhole covers (causing auto crashes), and those are made of cheap-ass cast iron.

The only way to stop this is through stronger laws and law enforcement targeting the scrap-metal dealers. We were having a bunch of problems with this crap here in Phoenix a few years ago. The State passed new laws requiring the scrap-metal dealers to look at IDs and take down names and addresses for all sales, and it's died down a lot.

Re:This won't work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710392)

It will work, it just won't be precipitous. When you commit a crime in order to profit and you don't actually profit, you won't continue to commit it with at least some forethought (ie, determining if the cables you are stealing are actually valuable). Additionally, these cables will be cheaper for initial installations (a nice side benefit) and if they are stolen, at least the expense of replacing the raw material will be somewhat mitigated.

Re:This won't work (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710442)

I'm from a third world country and I can tell you that we haven't seen copper power lines in decades. They're all made of some form of aluminium-steel combination for precisely the same reason the article is talking about. Thieves leave them alone.

Re:This won't work (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710662)

My parents have that shit in their house and quite frankly, it's not something you want unless you don't have other viable choices. It's unfortunate that so many people are in a position where they think stealing live wire is a good idea.

Perhaps at some point we could start funding the educational system, welfare and crime prevention programs again. Throwing people in prison for longer and longer periods of time just doesn't seem to be working.

Re:This won't work (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710548)

it's not like it's going to deter them from stealing the cable in the first place under the assumption that the cable is copper.

Sounds like a good plan. Theives do all the work, then find their payday going down the drain. If they can't tell the difference, a relatively small percentage of this stuff being installed discourages them from stealing the actual copper cables, too, since they can't tell if any target is going to pay-off or not.

License scrap cable sales. (4, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710320)

Removing the market for scrap copper cable might also work. Typically this stuff flows thru metals recycling yards who are only too happy to look the other way when white-van-man shows up with a half ton of scrap copper. If these recyclers. or the smaller number of up-stream buyers, had to have paper work from licensed demolition companies or power utilities tracing the copper they buy you could stop the theft very shortly, without having to wait till every mile of copper is stolen and replaced before your deterrence sets in.

Re:License scrap cable sales. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710382)

Where I'm from a copy of your drivers license and information is recorded with any sale to the scrap yard. If you come in with something like railroad ties, they call the police. This is in a generally rural southern town.

Criminalize... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710436)

...the purchase of stolen copper. And make a few big-time new story examples out of violators. That'll put a serious dent in the problem.

Re:License scrap cable sales. (3, Insightful)

smpoole7 (1467717) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710672)

We desperately need that here in Alabama. At present, there are plenty of crooked scrap dealers who buy the copper, then immediately load it on trucks and take it up to Tennessee, where it's melted within a matter of days. Even if you mark the copper, it doesn't make a bit of difference. It's long gone by the time the police show up to ask questions.

I agree. Take pictures of anyone selling scrap metal. Get their ID.

Re:License scrap cable sales. (-1, Flamebait)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710406)

So I work for a struggling company that generates recyclable waste, but we have to be put on a government watch-list and be given an unreasonable time delay to do what is acceptable for the "environment?"

Thanks a lot, Heinrich Himmler II. The American government needs you.

Re:License scrap cable sales. (2, Insightful)

smpoole7 (1467717) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710680)

So ... let me ask you this, Goebbels. (Hey, if you can invoke Geoffrey, I'll invoke him right back.)

A bunch of teenage-and-twenty-something kids come into your facility with a huge bundle of telecom cable. The insulation has been burned off. You just KNOW that they're legit; right? You don't even ask for ID?

Sorry, dood, but you ARE part of the problem. Calling me a Nazi for pointing that out to you doesn't change that fact.

Re:License scrap cable sales. (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710682)

Define unreasonable? If I lost the ability to call 911 because of copper thieves, I'd be pretty pissed myself. I'm personally surprised that it's taken this long to become a priority. Guess the FBI finally got tired of looking at kiddie porn.

Re:License scrap cable sales. (5, Interesting)

theycallmeB (606963) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710536)

A partial solution that seems to be working here in Oregon: for all scrap sales over a certain (relatively low) amount, the scrap dealer has to mail you a check rather than paying cash on the spot. Having to provide a working mailing address deters thieves, and the time delay discourages the druggies.

big problem (2)

bball99 (232214) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710328)

'round these parts - thieves are stealing HVAC units from the roofs of closed businesses, schools, etc.

the problem is that the recyclers are paying in cash, and unless get wary when presented with a hundred or so bronze flower vases from a cemetery, just do a quick nod and a wink on the payout

Used by hams for decades (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710330)

Copper clad steel has been used by hams for decades. It is most effective at radio frequencies, where the "skin effect" causes the current flow to exist primarily in the outermost regions of the cable. 50 or 60 Hz AC current is not high enough frequency to have much of a skin effect, so it will consequently be a poor conductor compared to solid copper. There's no doubt that it is harder to cut, though.

Re:Used by hams for decades (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710358)

So you're saying that HAM-radio operations are low-down, dirty theives.

I will make sure to give each I see the stink-eye.

Re:Used by hams for decades (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710414)

No he's saying that as a conductor, steel (iron) is about five times worse than copper and also that at RF frequencies the electrons are travelling through the surface of the conductor as opposed to the core (skin effect).

GroundSmart's implied claim about steel being a better conductor than copper is bogus:

Unlike conventional cables made from solid copper, the GroundSmart Copper Clad Steel Cable consists of a steel core bonded to a copper outer casing, forming an equally effective but far less valuable cable by exploiting the corrosion-resistance of copper with the conductive properties of steel.

The benefit to steel here is making the cable stronger (longer spans) and more resistant to cutting.

Re:Used by hams for decades (2)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710666)

The benefit to steel here is making the cable stronger (longer spans) and more resistant to cutting.

I wonder about that; I thought one of the reasons they used aluminum for high-voltage power lines was because it weighs much less, and that this enabled longer spans than denser material. Steel is dense and heavy; even though it is indeed very strong, wouldn't this be a giant disadvantage for spans?

Re:Used by hams for decades (1)

jampola (1994582) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710400)

Okay, so I will keep an eye out for anyone who looks like the Comic Store Guy wheeling a trolley full of copper.

Re:Used by hams for decades (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710644)

Copper clad goes back a very long way. I've seen examples of open wire communication lines installed in the early part of the 1900s that were copper clad iron or steel for the external corrosion resistance. This isn't really anything new.

JOBS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710338)

Maybe if there were some jobs in this country people wouldn't have to steal copper. It didn't happen NEARLY as much a few years back and I doubt the number of meth heads has increased that much since then. 8.5% unemployment is bullshit, it's more like 15% if you count everyone, not just the people currently getting benefits. Also, why not do something about the places that buy the scrap metal?

Re:JOBS (1)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710390)

Maybe if there were some jobs in this country people wouldn't have to steal copper. It didn't happen NEARLY as much a few years back and I doubt the number of meth heads has increased that much since then. 8.5% unemployment is bullshit, it's more like 15% if you count everyone, not just the people currently getting benefits. Also, why not do something about the places that buy the scrap metal?

Correlation != causation.

It could just be that criminals that have always been stealing stuff, have now found that stealing copper cables involves far less risk, and better rewards than stealing from people's houses.

There's far more statistics to be done to understand any of the underlying causes... but you know, blindly blaming it on a bad economy works just as well.

Re:JOBS (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710492)

How many people have had to turn to crime in the last few years because they have no other way to get money? Copper theft is hardly easy.. flipping burgers carries much less risk but good luck getting one of those jobs today. Where do I place the blame? Obama and 6 years of democrat policies. Rewarding unions, stifling job growth through over-regulation, and overtaxing the private sector has worked great, hasn't it? Thanks to these bastards, there's not going to be much left of America in a few years. We all knew that Obama had zero real experience (he didn't even finish his first senate term for fucks sake) and couldn't do anything but bullshit his way through life. It was obvious that he was nothing more than a crooked Chicago machine politician, but we voted him in anyway. Now we're reaping what we've sown. He's been living like a fucking king in the white house the past 3 years while the rest of us are barely scraping by.

Re:JOBS (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710520)

It could just be that criminals that have always been stealing stuff, have now found that stealing copper cables involves far less risk, and better rewards than stealing from people's houses.

It could be, sure. But seriously, which do you think is more likely?

Re:JOBS (5, Informative)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710428)

It didn't happen NEARLY as much a few years back and I doubt the number of meth heads has increased that much since then

A glance at this graph [mongabay.com] will give you a swift education on why copper theft has increased recently.

Re:JOBS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710664)

I just replaced all of the copper plumbing in my house with CPVC. Cost was most of the reason, the other was I have acidic well water and it eats the copper pipes. The pipes were thin wall copper (L grade) and many of them were paper thin and springing random leaks after just 20 years.

Re:JOBS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710606)

I was visiting a friend in a suburb of Pittsburgh. His neighbor put out a broken vacuum and a broken table fan next to the garbage can in front of his house. My friend commented that "someone's gonna score". He bet me that within 20 minutes someone would come by and cut and take the power cords. 5 minutes later a dude stops and cuts the cords and busted the head off the fan off and threw them in the back of his truck which was already full of random stuff. Obviously this recycling effort pays for at least his gas to drive around different neighborhoods. In the next hour, I saw no less then four other people driving around looking through the garbage.

Around where I live in northern VA, people are always stealing copper pipes and wires from new and empty houses. Someone recently took some pipes for a heating oil supply tank and it ended up draining into the basement.

More importantly. (1)

Glarimore (1795666) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710354)

Less copper in the cable = less expense in raw materials

Of course, this is for the same reason that people are stealing the cable in the first place: copper is EXPENSIVE.

I have an idea (1)

jampola (1994582) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710356)

Just send 20'000vac through that outer sleeve, that would act as a great deterrent!

Re:I have an idea (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710616)

Except when someone comes along with wooden or plastic handled cutters and hacks it off from one side, goes to the other side and hacks that off... well shit, looks like that whole massive middle section suddenly has no power running through it.

60 Million a Year? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710372)

Squirrels probably do 60M in damages a year...

Reward system (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710384)

Pay scrap metal recyclers large rewards for turning in thieves (if convicted)

Easier solution (5, Funny)

Leuf (918654) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710394)

Pirates use the copper in the lines to steal trillions of dollars worth of copyrighted materials. By stealing the copper, you are stealing the copyrighted materials that were transferring across them. Since we can't determine exactly how much copyrighted material was in the copper at the time, we need to assume it's at least 10 million dollars worth per foot. Since we'll never be able to recover this money from thieves desperate enough to steal copper, we simply need to authorize the RIAA and MPAA to shoot anyone suspected of stealing copper on sight.

Is the upfront cost less? (1)

Zakabog (603757) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710408)

Is the upfront cost less than or close to that of just a pure copper solution? If not then it's not likely going to be implemented. I knew a couple people who worked for the electric company, they'd come home with 20lb buckets of scrap. Just a dozen short pieces pieces of very large gauge copper wire, that stuff I'd say would be worth stealing if you knew you could do it without frying yourself (an unlikely possibility unless you had a lot of experience with high voltage lines) but going down the street taking down power lines with a chainsaw, seems like you'd be better off driving into a convenience store with a pickup truck and running off with an ATM machine.

Re:Is the upfront cost less? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710472)

You're ignoring TCO. If the cost of copper deployment is less than the cost of copper-clad steel cable which would you use? What if you have to replace 10% of your cable network each year due to thieves and copper-clad steel is only 5% more?

Re:Is the upfront cost less? (1)

Zakabog (603757) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710622)

Most copper theft is from abandoned/foreclosed homes. Pipes and wires are ripped out shortly after the home is left, the new owners cover that cost and they're not worried about someone stealing the cables and pipes while they're still living in the home. Maybe some small places where utility wires can and are stolen more easily and frequently will want to implement this solution, but then the more expensive cable will now be stolen because the thieves think it's copper wire. Unless everyone was using the same wire and it was just "known" that looking at some wires they're not going to be copper, people are still going to try and steal the cable.

Source on the Pitcher theft? (1)

JayTech (935793) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710424)

Is there any source on the Pitcher utility line theft story? I can't find anything. I doubt the "blackout" was a very big deal considering that the town is a ghost town with only six residences remaining. The town has been basically dead since it was declared a superfund site, and then a tornado hit a few years ago and wiped away the rest. Kind of puts that part of the story in perspective...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Picher,_Oklahoma [wikipedia.org]

Re:Source on the Pitcher theft? (1)

scdeimos (632778) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710502)

Is there any source on the Pitcher utility line theft story?

I believe it's the first link in the summary, but I could be wrong: NYTimes, 7-Feb-2011

Thieves broke into a muffler shop in Chillicothe, Ohio, and stole cash — and 130 catalytic converters. Pervasive thefts of copper wire from under the streets of Fresno, Calif., have prompted the city to seal thousands of its manhole covers with concrete. And in Picher, Okla., someone felled the town’s utility poles with chain saws, allowing thieves to abscond with 3,000 feet of wire while causing a blackout.

Re:Source on the Pitcher theft? (2)

scdeimos (632778) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710636)

Actually, it seems the NYT borrowed their content without attribution (so unlike them) from a 4-Mar-2010 article from the Joplin Globe:

PICHER, Okla. — Theft of copper from utilities and other businesses is nothing new, but officials say some brazen thieves took the crime up a notch — and should consider themselves lucky they’re not dead, even if they haven’t been caught yet.

The thieves made off with 3,000 feet of copper wire and some aluminum wire after cutting down numerous utility poles northeast of Picher, causing a temporary power outage for a handful of Empire District Electric Co. customers.

“They were sawed off at ground level with a chain saw,” Empire spokeswoman Amy Bass said of the six poles.

...

Nine residents were without power for several hours Wednesday. The lines apparently were cut about 7:30 a.m.

...

Empire District Electric Co. is offering a $10,000 reward for information that leads to a conviction in the copper-theft case at Picher. Officials said they are asking people who might have information about the case to call local law enforcement.

http://www.joplinglobe.com/local/x1399736758/Copper-thieves-cut-poles-energized-lines-in-Picher-buyout-area/ [joplinglobe.com]

Re:Source on the Pitcher theft? (1)

JayTech (935793) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710642)

I believe it's the first link in the summary, but I could be wrong: NYTimes, 7-Feb-2011

Thanks, I read that after I took a few seconds to bypass the paywall. I guess the NYT is a source, but unfortunately the story is very devoid of facts... only that one line on the theft (and an interview with a scrap metal guy and a politician unrelated to the incident)? Not one snippet anywhere else on any of the major news sites? Either I'm not looking hard enough (probably) or the theft was conjured up to add some drama to the story... anyone to disprove that silly theory?

I like this solution (1)

VAElynx (2001046) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710432)

Neat , saves material, too - even though manufacture is more expensive, I guess the saving on copper is worth it. I guess the thing it exploits is that at high voltages you only get current near the surface of a conductor (which is why many things use braided wire)

Re:I like this solution (1)

smpoole7 (1467717) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710554)

It's not the voltage, it's the frequency. The wire acts as an inductor, leading to "skin effect" -- most of the signal travels in the outer "skin" of the conductor, and very little current flows in the center.

Re:I like this solution (1)

smpoole7 (1467717) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710576)

Sorry, to further clarify: higher frequencies == more skin effect. Although ... I've been told that one reason why you can't find AC conductors much larger than 500 and 1000 MCM is because, even at 60 Hz, skin effect becomes significant.

(YMMV on that last one.)

Oh, I Know All About This One. (5, Interesting)

smpoole7 (1467717) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710440)

As someone who has been hit repeatedly by these morons, a few thoughts. Radio in general offers a very attractive target to these thieves, especially (believe it or not) older installations like AM radio stations. (At low frequencies like AM, the tower itself is actually the antenna -- that's why there are insulators in the guy wires -- and the tower field is laced with gobs and gobs of soft copper that acts as the ground plane.)

1. Copper-clad steel is nothing new. Some of this is just marketroid hype (though to be fair, I don't think anyone has ever made clad *telcom* cable before). But other types of clad conductors have been common for some time -- not just to deter theft, but because of the price of copper.

2. The real problem is the scrap metal dealers. You can't tell me that they're not suspicious when a couple of teenage guys come dragging in the core from a big honkin' three phase HVAC unit. But THEY want the copper even worse than the thieves, because they turn around and sell it in ton lots at a huge profit.

3. Copper is considerably more conductive than steel. We can get away with it at RF frequencies because of skin effect (i.e., the signal travels through the "skin" of the conductor, rather than the center), but it's not a perfect solution. It's much more difficult to work with and it's easy to accidentally strip off the copper cladding, leaving you with far less desirable steel at the connection point.

4. These thieves really are morons, and yes, most are repeat offenders. They even talk to one another in jail and compare notes. When we were hammered in February of 2010, the deputies who investigated our incident told us that they even knew who most of these people were. We had video cameras and they scoured the images to get a clue as to who it was.

But sometimes I have to laugh. One of our FM stations here is in the huge metropolis of Pumpkin Center, Alabama, which defines "middle of nowhere." The house up the (dirt) road from the transmitter site has been hit repeatedly; I drove to the site to do routine maintenance a couple of years ago and noted that the air conditioner had been ransacked. But they won't mess with the FM site.

I guess the fact that our landlady likes to go out and there and shoot with her boyfriend gives them pause. The sight of all those targets with bullet holes all around the center makes them think twice. :)

Then some thieves tried to cut the gigantic, 6" copper coax going to our 100,000 FM in North Central Alabama. I posted a note that said, "Dear morons, if you try to cut this line, please have your life insurance paid up .... "

They've stolen our grounding several times since, but they haven't touched that big coax again. :)

Re:Oh, I Know All About This One. (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710652)

Copper-clad steel is nothing new. Some of this is just marketroid hype (though to be fair, I don't think anyone has ever made clad *telcom* cable before). But other types of clad conductors have been common for some time -- not just to deter theft, but because of the price of copper.

There's lots of copper-clad aluminum telcom cable. I haven't heard of copper-clad steel being used for it, though.

Nothing new about Copper Clad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710450)

There is nothing new about 'Copper Clad' or copper covered steel. It has been around for over 65 years - my 1944 copy of the Radio Amateurs Handbook mentions copper clad steel wire for wire antennas.

Fact Check ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710454)

"exploiting the corrosion-resistance of copper with the conductive properties of steel"

Isn't copper the best conductor, second only to silver, but quite weak against corrosion? Stainless steel is by far better against corrosion then copper.
I think they may have that flipped around...

Hang theives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710456)

That's the real sollution. Most of these crimes are perpetrated by repeat offenders. Kill them on the first offence, hell even wait for the third offense, and you'll see these kinds of crimes dwindle to nearly nothing. We keep tollerating this kind of shit from people and that just encourages them to go do it again. They really don't mind jail. Hell they like jail, it's warmer than their home, it has better tv than their home, and the rent and food are free. JAIL DOES NOT WORK! We need a better solution is either jails that are truly terrible places to be, or capital punishment.

Re:Hang theives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710550)

Get them to read your posts, that'll learn them!

Copper clad steel isn't new. (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710464)

It's not new, and while it increases resistance to cutting, it also increases resistance to the flow of electricity (especially at lower frequencies). So you need a heavier and bulkier cable to do the job.

Copper Clad is NOT new (3, Insightful)

Gim Tom (716904) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710466)

Uh, the article does not explain what is new about this. Copper clad cable has been around forever. It has been used for High Frequency antennas where the tensile strength of the steel is important and the skin effect keeps the RF currents near the surface. I don't think there is much skin effect at the frequencies they are promoting this cable to be used for. As others have already pointed out, the problem is not limited to electric or communications cable. Plumbing, and HVAC systems are also prime targets. Better regulation of metal recycling and the prosecution of those recyclers who do "look the other way" would go a long way to stopping this problem.

Of course a few more charred bodies like was found on a building roof near here recently when a copper thief THOUGHT the 660 volt power line to the chillers was disconnected and it wasn't could also be a deterrent

Fiber (1)

MetricT (128876) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710468)

Of course, if we had that fiber network we've paid for several times over in telephone fees, that would also deter thieves from stealing copper too...

Re:Fiber (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710660)

Until glass becomes more and more expen... oh wait.

Holy runon sentence, Batman! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710478)

"Pervasive thefts of copper wire from under the streets of Fresno, California have prompted the city to seal thousands of its manhole covers with concrete and in Picher, Oklahoma, someone felled the town's utility poles with chain saws, allowing thieves to abscond with 3,000 feet of wire while causing a blackout as the theft of copper cables in costs US companies $60 million a year and the FBI says it considers theft of copper wire to be a threat to the nation's baseline ability to function"

Somewhere, an English teacher weeps.

Good thing we've got editors, right?

the root of the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710530)

The root of the problem isn't making things a bitch to steal. It's the psychopathic globalist agenda which is making wars, and corporations making law, so everything is shutting down and going bust. This symptom, "stealing copper" is a seed test to see if they can create another Problem, Reaction Solution saga when the public finally gets sick of the unemployed gangs (or whoever the msm gets the people to blame) stealing the copper, let the police shoot them the public will cry, and then we'll hear about all these copper thieves being shot, and then shooting back, and then more public outcry, another new law ban the guns, then more cops, more psychopathic bullshit.

Hospitals are next (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710542)

And in another of todays bulletins, US hospitals solve the crisis of overcrowding by locking the doors.

Why not hire security guards to march up and down the streets all day and night carrying M5's with shoot-to-kill orders?
Better still, surround the copper cables with high frequency electricity to shock thieves to death.
I know, pass laws that give life imprisonment (or perhaps execution even?) for stealing copper cables!

Or perhaps it's time to elect Ron Paul so the banking cartels can be brought down and people don't have to steal copper wire in order to feed themselves? Nah, that'd never work.

Legalize Drugs... (3, Interesting)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710570)

Where I live (Vancouver, Canada) the copper is largely stolen to fund drug addiction. Legalize drugs (and give away the hard stuff under prescription) and lots of this theft goes away...

Re:Legalize Drugs... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710630)

From someone who hung around people playing with the hard stuff. You can never get enough of it. The only limiter is price. What you propose would be akin to saying 'lets kill thousands of people and on the taxpayers dime at that'

Re:Legalize Drugs... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710690)

In Britain, heroin is available by prescription. 50% of those with a prescription are able to quit on their own, compared to the 10% not on the prescription program.

The enforcement regime is already killing people on the peoples' dime.

Must be well marked (1)

pentalive (449155) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710674)

Unless it is well marked it will not prevent the thief from taking it. It will only from making as much as they thought they might. The damage to power networks and facilities will still happen.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...