Theft of copper cable is an epidemic across the country and the world. As global demand for copper increases, and the price thieves receive for recycled metal rises, the problem continues to escalate. In an effort to help customers reduce copper theft and increase the rate of apprehension and prosecution of copper thieves, Southwire has been working diligently on a solution.

Proof Positive Copper with TraceID Technology features a copper conductor that is laser etched with unique serial codes and a Web site URL on each foot of conductor. The TraceID Technology Web-based system stores the purchase records of each foot of Proof Positive sold by Southwire to indicate the rightful owner. This traceable system provides the chain of ownership that is currently missing in the market and preventing utilities from successfully prosecuting thieves.

Armed with a prototype, Southwire approached Georgia Power to see if they would install a sample of Proof Positive Copper in a theft-prone substation just outside the metropolitan area of Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. They agreed.

Prior to the install, Southwire met with Georgia Power and representatives from their recycler to present the prototype product and demonstrate how the Web-based tracing system operates. Georgia Power installed several ground wire samples of 4/0-7 Proof Positive Copper in March 2009.

By mid-April, everyone was amazed at what had happened. Within one week, all of the new grounding conductor had been cut out. Georgia Power notified local recyclers of the theft and advised them to be on the lookout. Two weeks later, the thief took the stolen copper to a recycler. The manager recognized the piece of copper, was able to positively identify it as Proof Positive Copper and notified Georgia Power's security team. While the police and utility representatives were en route, a second thief went to the recycler with another piece of the stolen Proof Positive conductor to sell. After determining the source of this stolen copper, police raided a copper-fencing house near the residences of both apprehended thieves and caught a third criminal

Traceability of conductor led to apprehension. Because the copper conductor had the serial codes that could prove without a doubt the actual owner of that piece — however small — Georgia Power had enough evidence to proceed with prosecution.

In the end, three copper thieves were in jail just three weeks after Georgia Power installed a sample of Proof Positive Copper. Even better, the utility now has a means of proving ownership, which will make their security and legal investments in curbing bare copper theft pay off.

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