In November 2007, A&S looked at some solutions for the global scrap copper and other metal theft problem. Video solutions for this vertical are now on the increase.
The metal theft pandemic is one that the U.S. Department of Energy has estimated is costing more than US$1 billion a year. In Europe, according to a 2007 survey by the French Building Federation (FFB), 67 percent of 3,000 companies polled declared that they had been victims of metal theft. Today, building site insurers have seen the number of claims related to theft or acts of vandalism almost double in the past six years.
The problem is now closing schools, endangering hospitals, creating blackouts, and affecting the way people do business. In an attempt to address the issue of scrap metal theft, the U.S. Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. (ISRI) Scrap Theft Task Force released a document recommending, among other measures, the capturing of scrap metal transactions on video surveillance. Many U.S. states have also passed laws requiring dealers and processors to add new documentation and storage of holding of scrap material for a minimum period.
Security vendors have come across many stories of theft incidents which involve raw materials like electric wiring, copper plumbing tubing and fixtures, and even completely installed appliances such as refrigerators and stoves. However, metal theft is a market which is as yet a nascent one for the security industry.
France's RSI Video Technologies is one of only a handful of video providers who offer solutions specifically for this problem. The completely wireless system motion-activates the integrated night-vision camera and sends a 10-second video of the intruder and incident over the network to the monitoring station and the site manager so that police can be dispatched to the scene of a crime-in-progress.
RSI provides support to up to 200 users in charge of facilities such as telecommunications towers, electrical sub-stations, water treatment facilities, oil well-heads, rooftop equipment and similar remote or difficult to protect applications. The system includes a wireless proximity reader which simplifies access to sites and offers card management over GPRS. Programmable auto-rearming assures protection is restored even if service persons neglect to turn their system back on. RSI has also created a website designed to inform commercial property owners and security professionals of the magnitude of the copper theft problem and possible solutions. It includes clips of actual incidents, current news articles on copper theft, and television coverage with interviews of victims and police.
Authorities the world over are working on metal theft solutions. One example among many can be found in China, which is looking to use the Ethernet version of passive optical network technology in rural areas in order to overcome the copper wire theft problem. As upgrades to fiber optic systems continue, telecom and industrial companies need to look for current solutions to deter metal theft.