Tracing Stripped Copper: A Solution for the Wire Theft Epidemic

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(DGIwire) — Copper-wire theft is at or near an all-time high in America thanks to the skyrocketing costs of copper, a still-sputtering economy, high prices paid by scrap metal dealers, and the relative ease with which wire can be stolen from unguarded locations and resold to recyclers who don’t care where it originated.

Although metal thieves targeted foreclosed and abandoned houses during the height of the recession, thieves are now setting their sights on bigger targets. In Wichita, KS, for example, power company officials reported four copper thefts from substations in all of 2012. By April 2013, they had already reported 50.

In March 2014, three signal workers on the Long Island Rail Road—America’s largest commuter railroad—were accused of stealing thousands of pounds of copper and selling it for scrap metal. Authorities say the workers removed new and old wire cables from job sites, loaded them onto LIRR trucks and then transferred them onto their private vehicles. The wire was later sold to local recyclers for cash. These arrests came a year after 15 other LIRR employees were arrested and later convicted of similar crimes.

Thieves were even caught in a New York subway tunnel walking off with strands of copper cable. A crime that once was common, is now making a major comeback.

Although such thefts might never be entirely preventable, they might now occur much less frequently thanks to a potential solution conceived in the LIRR’s own backyard. Stony Brook, NY’s Applied DNA Sciences provides original, innovative and highly effective DNA-based anti-counterfeiting technology and product authentication solutions and services.

Applied DNA’s DNAnet® is a plant DNA-based marker that can link copper thieves to the scene of their crimes. The company’s technology has been instrumental at slashing copper theft by 85 percent in a single company’s power stations in the European Union, according to announcements. As a result, 60 European power stations, two national railroads and commercial installations have now been protected by the company’s technology. In some cases, the anti-theft program also complemented other new anti-theft measures such as video surveillance.

Dr. James A. Hayward, President and Chief Executive Officer of Applied DNA Sciences, says, “In the U.S., more than 95 percent of energy utilities have experienced copper theft in the past 12 months, with more than 50,000 incidences nationwide. This problem is infiltrating our railroads—as exemplified by the LIRR theft—and putting the public’s safety at risk. Copper asset protection, and protection against other kinds of metal theft, is an area that is ripe for growth. We are receiving inquiries from customers who recognize the importance of protecting their assets, minimizing their losses, and ensuring that original products and brands can be traced to their source.”

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