Copper thieves

Why are they turkeys?
Without emphasizing the obvious here, copper theft, as popularized in the TV show Friday Night Lights, has become a growing problem for both domestic and international service providers.

Copper theft has a rippling effect on not only the service provider, but also the consumer and even the thieves.

In addition to causing physical damage to the telco's infrastructure, stealing copper can cause telephone service outages, including 911 service.

But copper theft can also have more dire consequences for the thieves. Because a telco's copper wires are often collocated next to utility lines, thieves could be instantly electrocuted.

At least four people have died from electrocution while attempting to steal copper in West Virginia. In a recent copper theft case in Beckley, West Va., Raleigh County prosecutors charged two copper theft suspects with first degree murder after one of their partners was electrocuted while allegedly stealing copper from a Frontier Communications facility.

"We hope that if the possibility of killing themselves doesn't deter people from attempting copper theft, then perhaps the knowledge that they can be charged with first degree murder if one of their associates is killed might help dissuade people from committing the crime," said Raleigh County Prosecuting Attorney Kristen Keller in a release announcing the case.

U.S. service providers aren't the only ones fighting copper theft. Seeing a similar raft of copper crimes in its serving areas, BT has been employing smart water bombs that spray a would-be thief when they open up BT equipment (remote terminal cabinets, vaults, etc). The liquid inside these smart water bombs carries a DNA fingerprint that not only links the thief to the crime scene, but leaves stains on the thief can be detected by police carrying ultraviolet light detectors.

The lesson here for criminals is that the risks of copper theft far outweigh the small cash benefit that can be gained in selling stolen copper to a scrap yard.

Copper thieves