News Archive

Copper Catchers

by msecadm4921

A recent rise in the worldwide price of copper has sparked a demand for the metal and led to an increase in copper-related thefts.

Gas pipes, earthing cable, even copper statues have all been targets for thieves for the sake of scrap value. Even the London Underground has been targeted, with crooks stealing copper cable used for rail signal, causing delays for thousands of commuters. Forensic marking product firm SmartWater reports its product’s adoption by electricity suppliers CE Electric UK to protect substations and similar premises from victimisation. CE Electric UK delivers electricity to 3.7 million homes across the North East of England, Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire.

The firm reports criminals smashing doors, taking down fencing and even removing bricks from walls to steal copper from substation sites, which can each provide power to over 30,000 homes and businesses. Thieves are risking lives by leaving sites open after break-ins and exposing potentially fatal high-voltage equipment. Copper cable within substations is being coated with SmartWater, which contains a unique forensic code that provides batch identification and absolute proof of ownership – similar to the process of DNA profiling. SmartWater can withstand a range of operating conditions making it virtually impossible to remove, it is claimed.

Elsewhere, police in South Yorkshire have been covertly using SmartWater as part of Operation Apparent, to apprehend gangs targeting copper piping and cylinders from void property. Following a series of thefts in which SmartWatered copper cylinders were stolen, police checks were carried out at all scrap metal dealers in Doncaster and its surrounding areas. Two cylinders were recovered and identified as stolen using the SmartWater system. It appeared that the criminals had tried to scrape off the incriminating SmartWater but even the debris left behind on the ground was identifiable. Gang members were arrested and later charged.

What they say

SmartWater Chief Executive Officer, Phil Cleary, said: "Police forces around the country now routinely check property for traces of SmartWater and this is acting as a powerful warning to the criminal fraternity. Thieves and burglars are increasingly becoming aware that if they target SmartWater protected property they will be caught."

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