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RFID Prevents Copper Theft

Armed Response Team provides Inovonics' RFID system in conjunction with a manned response to attempted thefts at electrical boxes in Albuquerque.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 02, 2011In response to four incidents involving the theft of copper electrical wires at its showroom in Albuquerque, Accent Southwest Windows and Doors is now employing an RFID-based solution combining an arsenal of police officers and automated wireless sensors.

For businesses, the theft of copper wire can be a recurring problem. Electrical service boxes—access points for the underground wires that provide electric power to companies—are frequently located outside a building, where thieves can potentially access the wires and pull them out of the boxes. The process of stealing copper wire can take 30 minutes to an hour to complete, but if a box is located in a secluded area, a thief can pull off such a heist without being observed, and then sell the copper on the black market for triple the price that it would have fetched just a few years ago. A burglar can simply rip out the wires, and later strip off the insulation in order to sell the bare copper. For businesses, the expense is often absorbed by insurance companies, though a company's operations can remain down for a day or more until rewiring of its electrical service can be accomplished.

ART's CEO, David Meurer
To deter such thefts, Accent Southwest Windows and Doors deployed a solution provided by Armed Response Team (ART), utilizing an active 915 MHz ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) Gen 2 RFID tag from Inovonics. The tag transmits an alert upon sensing that an electrical service box's door is open, says David Meurer, Armed Response Team's owner and CEO, thereby indicating that someone might be tampering with the box. ART has provided the solution to approximately 50 businesses to date throughout the Albuquerque area, in order to thwart thieves from stealing copper wires.

ART was founded in 2004 by a retired police officer, to provide a manned response to calls or burglar alarms. The problem, the company explains, was that local law-enforcement departments were often called to handle false alarms. Burglar alarms have a battery as a backup power source, and are designed to trigger an alert if the main power goes out. Although an alert might be caused by a thief cutting electrical wires, a simple power outage could also trigger an alert, resulting in a false alarm. What's more, in the event of a copper theft, a burglar alarm will only trigger an alert once the wire has been cut, bv which point it may be too late to thwart the burglary. Therefore, ART's leadership turned to Inovonics for a solution to this problem. Inovonics provided a transmitter and sensor built into a single device that detects the opening of the circuit box before wires can be tampered with, and issues an alert via radio frequency identification.

About a year ago, Armed Response Team installed the Inovonics system at Accent Southwest Windows and Doors, as well as at other businesses across the Albuquerque area that face the same problem. The RFID tag fits within the electrical box, and transmits a signal at preset intervals, thereby indicating that the alert status of that box is normal.

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