October 2010
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Copper prices on the increase

It is a concern for radio and TV stations, that someone will notice all that greenish brown piping coming out of the buildings and attempt to liberate it, for the cash that is in it.  Of course, such things can lead to some pretty spectacular failures and possible harm to the thieves.  AM ground systems are often a target because they can be pulled up without anyone noticing right away.

In the last twelve months, copper has gone from to about $2.90 to $3.82 per pound:

Copper prices through 10/10

Copper prices through 10/10 per 100 lbs

This is approaching the all time high price of $4.34 per pound in early 2008.

Copper TELCO cables, wiring, piping, gutters, downspouts, roofing are all targets for thieves.  On the other side of the Atlantic, British Telecom (BT) has been hit so hard, they are striking back.  Employing something called “Smart Water Bombs,” they can mark any unauthorized person that attempts to open BT equipment. According to PC pro magazine:

The SmartWater liquid carries a DNA fingerprint that links a criminal to the scene of the crime and police units carrying ultra-violet light detectors can use the incriminating stains to make an arrest after the trap has been sprung.

That is a novel approach, but it  may be a little extreme for the average radio station.  There are a few steps that one can take to minimize theft at the transmitter site:

  1. Keep things buttoned up, mow the field, trim the weeds around the building and make regular site checks.  Keep the building in good repair.  If the site looks cared for, drive by thieves may think twice about visiting.
  2. Make sure that all of the buried copper ground system is indeed buried.  Any wires or screen showing is an invitation for a tug.
  3. Copper strap is especially vulnerable.  Get a metal stamp and stamp the station’s call sign into it every twenty feet or so.  Take pictures of this and keep them on hand to show police.
  4. Report any thefts right away.  In NY, scrap yards must keep records of all transactions over $50.00.  At today’s prices, that is about 14 pounds of bare copper wire or strap, which is not much.
  5. Have a neighbor keep and eye on the place.  Once, I traded about 10 CD’s and 5 T-shirts to the next door neighbor and from that day forward, nothing ever happened at that site without me knowing of it.
  6. Put up “Danger, High Voltage,” and/or RFR warning signs.
  7. Keep fences in good condition and locked.
  8. If possible, work with the local police department to up site patrols.  Sometimes they will, sometimes they won’t but it never hurts to ask.
  9. If the site warrants it, buy some dual light cameras and a motion triggered DVR.  This is more of a revenge device, but it nets an arrest, it will be effective in stopping repeat occurrences.

If you notice any unusual activity at the transmitter site, especially during a late night visit, have the police come and check it out before you confront a possible thief.


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