Dick S. Pickens
THE COSTLY CRIME OF CUT COPPER - - -
An article in the Austin American Statesman on May 12th told of the booming thefts of metals in recent months. This came as no surprise to us since we had just spent the better part of the previous two days at two directional AM radio stations where the copper strap had been cut away from a total of seven towers. Since the cut edges were very smooth and fresh (shiny copper) we knew it was a professional job and it had happened in the last few days. I had just photographed one of those tower bases the previous week as we replaced two ATU capacitors damaged by lightning. In that photo the strapping was intact. We checked around with other engineers in the area and found at least one other tower that was ‘hit’ on the previous Saturday, so it probably was the same thieves. That station knew when it happened because it immediately knocked them off the air. (Dare we hope the thief at that moment became a sizzling part of the RF ground?).
MODUS OPERANDI - - -
The criminals cut triangular shaped holes in the chain link fencing around the tower and went for the gold… err… copper. And this seemed like a simple job compared to the wild stories we heard from the Sheriff’s Deputies and the Police Detectives. They told of metal thefts like we could never have imagined. We were also told that they were on the trail of some suspects and the next day’s newspaper article also claimed that.
Well, it must have been true because a news story this week said three suspects had been arrested. They were making big bucks reselling copper to the used metals buyers. Copper strap is a favorite because it is heavy and brings them more money. The other side of the issue is – what would it cost your station to replace it at retail plus all the welding? We have even heard of thieves pulling up AM ground radial wires also.
TO CATCH A THIEF - - -
The nagging question is – What can you do to prevent such? Any suggestions? I have heard a few but none seem sufficient. The most immediate came when I went to an automotive parts house to buy a lot of 100% copper jumper cables for temporary grounding. One of the store’s customers asked what I was doing with the big pile of jumpers and I told him. His suggestion was to rig the fence so the #%$&^* guys would fry themselves getting in. I discounted that one in today’s ‘politically correct’ judicial environment. The station engineer would end up in the hoosegow!
Maybe closed-circuit cameras and recorders could catch a thief, but I doubt it. Alarm systems could send an alert, but neither you nor the authorities could get to the site fast enough. No doubt a 24 hour guard is out of the question. Guard dogs might be effective, but but you have to go out and feed them daily. Maybe big signs that say extremely high radio energy can cause brain damage! But then you might be accosted by environmentalists. But thieves already have brain issues and may not even be able to read them.
Any ideas? Email us on next page and we may share them.