Guarding a precious metal

In the past, when city municipalities experienced copper theft, all they could do is search for clues. Now armed with a new tool, the City of Federal Way can receive real-time alerts so they can take immediate action. This alert system helps protect against the extensive costs for replacing stolen wire and damaged infrastructure while providing real time visibility to the Parks Department and local law enforcement authorities. MacDonald-Miller partnered with the City to develop this copper theft detection system.

“Repair costs, down-time, staff time and often loss of games on sports fields are some of the ways copper theft affects us,” says Steve Ikerd, Parks Deputy Director for the City of Federal Way.

The driving factor for this technology solution was to save time and money. When games or events have to be canceled due to copper theft, communities lose money.

Steve also shared, “Working with MacDonald-Miller was a good experience as we collectively worked to identify needs, potential challenges, and how staff would interface with the product. Everyone had their picture of what the final product would look like, and it was good to see with team effort, and some adjustments, the final outcome was as expected.”

For this system to work, a wire must be cut, and the cost to repair a cut wire is a lot smaller than having to install missing wire. The real test for this will be if its use can significantly reduce the repair cost, and, as a side benefit, create an opportunity to catch the perpetrator in the act.

MacDonald-Miller is working with cities and utilities who want to save money. The cost of replacing copper is generally 10-15 times more than the copper itself. The copper theft prevention system was designed to save communities money, decrease risk, and enhance community safety.

Read more articles from our Perspective Newsletter.

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