O&R’s new weapon to help combat copper wire theft is as simple as it is ingenious. The new weapon is paint. But, this isn’t just any garden-variety paint. This paint is invisible, and can only be seen under a UV light.
O&R is working with DataDot Technology to use a spray system that paints identifying marks on the Company’s cooper wire. Each set of dots has a unique identifier, logo or numbered ID that is invisible to the naked eye, but under UV light clearly marks the equipment as the property of O&R.
O&R’s deploying this new weapon at key areas around its service area because O&R, like other electric utilities across the nation, including Con Edison which has also adopted this program, sees its share of wire theft, especially when the market price of copper increases. Although much of the wire currently used by O&R is aluminum, the thefts primarily are related to the copper wires that run from the pole to the ground. These wires help insure the integrity of the system and protect the system and customer services from such events as power surges and lightning strikes.
Interfering with this equipment in an unsafe manner can result in injury or death to the individual. Similar wire thefts elsewhere in the nation have resulted in fatalities. Because these wires by their very nature are anchored into the ground, they are the most accessible equipment to vandals. In addition to safety issues, wire theft can disrupt the effective operation of the electrical system, causing power outages and the resulting customer inconvenience. And, the cost of both those repairs and the replacement of the stolen wire end up in the monthly bills of O&R electric customers.
O&R records a number of wire theft reports each year. In 2013, there were 13 reported copper wire thefts. Arrests have been made in some instances and others are pending. O&R also has been working with local law enforcement to stem these thefts. When O&R’s partnership with local police agencies produces arrests of wire thieves and the scrap dealers to whom they sell, O&R insists that those cases are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
The law requires metal recyclers in New York State to obtain photo identification from anyone who sells them scrap or other materials including, but not limited to, copper and aluminum wire. The law applies to sales totaling $50 or more. Under the law, metal recyclers are required to keep a copy of that photo ID in a file for inspection by law enforcement officials for two years. Failure to comply with this law can result in a court appearance and a $200 fine.