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High-Voltage Fences For Zapping Would-Be Copper Thieves

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  • Yikes... (Score:5, Funny)

    by SIGBUS (8236) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @04:33PM (#42060195) Homepage

    Coming soon: "Don't Whiz on the Electric Fence" championship edition.

    • Re:Yikes... (Score:5, Informative)

      by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @04:53PM (#42060425) Homepage Journal

      When I was ten (half a century ago), by buddy actually did piss on an electric fence. Poor kid lay there screaming for ten minutes, but there was no permanent damage. I think this is an excellent idea; farmers and ranchers have been using electric fences to keep their animals in for decades, and I have yet to hear of anyone being harmed.

      • Re:Yikes... (Score:5, Funny)

        by EETech1 (1179269) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @05:50PM (#42061099)

        About 30 years ago I fell victim to the older neighbor kids when i had to pee. They told me to go behind the shed, but don't piss on the shed because my dad will get mad, so i went with my back to the shed and pissed right on an electric fence. It got me 3 times before I figured out what the hell was going on, and turned away. No damage, just a wee bit sore for a few hours.

        I don't care what the Mythbusters say, it is possible, I know it is, and my older neighbors all laughed having suckered another person into pissing on it, so I wasn't the first one with a painful experience behind that shed!

        My(BZZZZT)th Conf(BZZZZT)irm(BZZZZT)ed

        Owww!

        Cheers...

      • Re:Yikes... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Thursday November 22, 2012 @01:51AM (#42064219)
        This is known as the "Pournelle Solution". See Yet Another Modest Proposal, by Larry Niven.

        It is named after Jerry Pournelle's proposed solution for radioactive waste disposal. It works like this:

        [1] Find an historically (and consistently) arid region.

        [2] Pile up your radioactive waste in the middle,

        [3] build a fence around it, say maybe 100 miles radius. Then

        [4] put signs on the fence, in several languages, that say "If you cross this fence, you will die."

        [5] End of problem.

        I may not have gotten Jerry's words exactly right, but this is the gist of his suggestion.
  • by Shavano (2541114) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @04:34PM (#42060203)
    Start making the recyclers who pay cash for copper keep records and start prosecuting them for receiving stolen goods.
    • This is not an unreasonable solution, but you'll hear it decried as "punishing small business owners", and "deterring recycling". The fact that these aren't really true won't keep opportunistic politicians at bay.

      • by buybuydandavis (644487) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @04:48PM (#42060367)

        Yeah, because regulatory compliance and associated paperwork, government inspections, lawsuits, and penalties impose 0 costs on businesses.

        And since everyone wants to be recorded in government registries, because everyone wants to fill in forms, because everyone is literate enough to fill in forms, it won't deter anyone from recycling either.

        • by Improv (2467) <pgunn@dachte.org> on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @04:55PM (#42060453) Homepage Journal

          I am so glad that systems need to be perfect and costs need to be 0 before we're willing to accept them.

          • For every grocery item you buy, fill out a form with it's UPC code, expiration date, etc. Make a copy of your ID for each. Then do a forensic examination on each piece of trash so that you can distinguish between one milk carton and another. Do that for a week, then tell us if it's acceptable to you to spend your days doing that.
            • by Improv (2467)

              I am not a business. Businesses need accountants and legal help as part of their ordinary existence, and they're artificial entities to begin with.

              • by nschubach (922175)

                But you could be an electrician who stocks clippings and removed lines for recycling later. Are you stating that the Electrician should have to register every house they remove wire from... even if it is just a handful?

            • They do that with the ingredients for making meth.

              Nobody is stealing milk.

            • That is preposterous.

              However, there IS a record for each item I purchase. It's called a "sales receipt", offered to me with each and every purchase. It itemizes everything, including any applicable sales taxes. It itemizes what I bought by brand name, size, cost, and whether I used any discount scheme to pay for it.

          • I like how he overlooks the cost to the companies, people, and governments having copper stolen.

        • by viperidaenz (2515578) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @05:10PM (#42060625)
          When was the last time illiterate citizens legally obtained large amounts of copper they want to swap for untraceable cash?

          When was the last time someone not recorded in government registries was in the USA? hint: drivers license, social security number, birth certificate, travel/work visa... I can only think of illegal immigrants.

          Last time I dumped a bunch of copper pipe at a local scrap metal place I had to produce photo ID and fill out a form. I don't live in USA though.
        • by sco08y (615665)

          Yeah, because regulatory compliance and associated paperwork, government inspections, lawsuits, and penalties impose 0 costs on businesses.

          And since everyone wants to be recorded in government registries, because everyone wants to fill in forms, because everyone is literate enough to fill in forms, it won't deter anyone from recycling either.

          Preventing theft and fraud, though, is a vital part of a free market and an entirely legitimate role of government. There is a cost, certainly, but the cost of crime* is invariably far higher than the cost of policing.

          * where said crimes are actual crimes with real victims and damages suffered.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by west (39918)

            > but the cost of crime* is invariably far higher than the cost of policing.

            Homeland Security

        • by swb (14022) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @05:27PM (#42060849)

          Tough shit, they had their chance for the zero regulation solution but their greed and willful ignorance is putting and end to that.

          It was just easy money for them -- the toothless loser driving the '98 Grand Am turning in a few hundred feet of brand-new 00 wire was perfectly willing to accept 30% below melt value for the wire and the owner was happy to resell it as new to the "ask no questions" contractor at a 15% discount below new retail.

          If you want it no regulation, that's fine, but let's make the punishments if you get caught:

          1) Accepting stolen merchandise -- clerk goes to jail
          2) Business is fined 3x the metal value and the metal or its on-site equivilent is confiscated
          3) Three violations in a 12 month period and you lose your recycling license for six months
          4) Two loss of license violations? Company, its owners and officers are barred from engaging in commercial metal recycling for 10 years.

        • Oh yeah, it would be so hard. I guess that's why every pawn shop manages to survive even though the keep sale records.

          All you do is take a picture of the person bring into the copper. Or copy an ID.
          Cheap and quick to do. If this means the price I get for recycling goes don a dollar a ton for copper,, the so be it.

          If you don't want to participate in society, then you aren't getting the benefits of society.
          Someone shows up with pounds of copper material, keeping track of where they get it is reasonable.

          Or do you think tons of stolen copper has no cost on business and government?

        • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

          by PNutts (199112)

          Yeah, because regulatory compliance and associated paperwork, government inspections, lawsuits, and penalties impose 0 costs on businesses.

          If you want to see what zero costs looks like, I suggest you turn off Rush and read Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle".

        • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @10:03PM (#42063183) Homepage Journal

          Forms? Not a lot is required. On the sales receipt that the junkyard keeps anyway, just record driver's license number and/or social security number of whoever sold the "scrap" to you.

          We had a huge brass nut stolen from work. Damned thing weighed about 70 pounds. Special purpose item, it's made specially for the tie-bars on our machines. I don't know any other equipment that uses such a nut. The thing was shiny-brand-new, waiting to be installed the next morning, when it mysteriously walked out of the plant. $1,800 dollars, just gone, and the machine was going to be down for as long as it took the supplier to get another new nut, and ship it to us.

          Several people spread out, and hit every junk yard within 75 miles, inquiring about that special purpose brass nut. It was located, and the proprietor did indeed have the driver's license number of the person who sold it to him.

          At this point, the story gets really stupid: no charges were filed. The guilty party is still employed. I don't even know if that guy had to pay the junkyard owner back.

          But, a simple driver's license number on the receipt got our nut back, and the machine in operation two days later, which was costing about $15,000 each day it was down.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by gewalker (57809)

        They passed this in Indiana some years ago, the newspaper generally endorsed it, and the public mostly thought it was a good idea (after all they were not recycling copper frequently, nor were they in the salvage business). I think it is pretty much "sign here" and snap a picture. This did not stop copper theft either.

    • by Hentes (2461350) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @04:45PM (#42060325)

      This. Most metal salesmen have a pretty good idea which piece of trash came from illegal sources they just turn a blind eye because it's more profit for them.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @04:51PM (#42060395)

        That is the law in my state. Businesses not following it was rampant. But then, the state police started doing stings where they do things like bring multiple faucets or huge amounts of piping and the like. All it takes is one bust and you lose your recycling license for the business and the employee who doesn't report the suspicious transaction can be charged as well, which means they can be unhireable in that business and many others with the felony conviction. Lets just say that that cut into the problem quite a bit in the major cities.

    • So how is the scrap yard going to match a pile of crumpled up copper pipes back to what was inside your house?

      • They won't, the guy dropping them off will have to.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @05:33PM (#42060913)

        Well, if a police get a report of a house that had a crapton of copper tubing ripped out of the walls and floors, and then discover a crapload of copper tubing just happened to be sold to a scrap dealer shortly thereafter... it's not exactly a convoluted path to draw a line between the two. And given how much damage and work you'd need to do to rip tubing out of walls and floors, they can probably find some kind of evidence directly linking to the two. Hell, multiple identically-angled cuts from the identical grade copper scrap and what's left in the house is probably a good start, never mind any DNA evidence the thief left at the scene (hair, blood if he cut himself, skin, etc).

        Honestly, it would be trivially easy to link a thief with stolen scrap metal, provided the scrap dealer actually keeps fucking records like he's legally supposed to as is.

        And I happen to work in an industry where I know exactly what type of paperwork the scrap dealer needs, and for how long he legally needs to keep it (note: it's a bit longer than a few days. Try years.)

        Shut down or heavily fine a few scrap yards for buying illegal scrap without keeping proper documentation, and the rest will require valid photo ID to sell to them and have video surveillance of the sale counter before the end of the day.

    • by raymorris (2726007) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @05:15PM (#42060685)
      Where I live that is one of many regulations related metal recycling. It hasn't worked. There is no way to identify a particular piece of pipe, wiring etc. and say it came from some specific location. Even where you COULD match it up, that would require forensic inspection of every piece of metal trash, then comparing each to all thefts. We're talking about vast amounts of scrap, trash, every day, not the occasional mysterious body evey few years, so the forensics to match them aren't anywhere near feasible.
      • by _Ludwig (86077)

        The electric utility here uses a proprietary type of wire that no one else has access to (AFAIK it’s not “special” beyond being braided in a particular pattern) so recycling companies can identify cable that’s been pulled from streetlights and such.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by geekoid (135745)

        I think you don't actual have a clue and are making that up.

        We are talking about huge rolls of unused wire, industrial valves that cost 30k+, statues. Sometimes 100's of yards of copper.

        So when some cones tolling it with a giant spool of wire in there truck, that person gets photographed. If someone reports large bundles of wire stolen, then police can ask that person questions .

        Forensics. You need to watch less CSI.
        The police report a large copper valve has been stole and provide description. The get a thu

  • by plover (150551) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @04:35PM (#42060211) Homepage Journal

    It'll be a lot of fun to see the guy's face when they steal his electric fence wire.

    • by skids (119237)

      Or figure out how to tap it to heat their cardboard boxes.

    • Re:A lot of fun (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NIK282000 (737852) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @04:53PM (#42060419) Homepage Journal

      Bingo, as stupid as copper thieves are they'll figure out in a hurry that a cheap pair of gloves and some cutters will make short work of an electric fence.

      • by Fuzzums (250400)

        Possibly. but what will they do against my pond with that array of... TESLA COILS behind my fence...

        • by geekoid (135745)

          Steal them.
          And apparently many of the people on slashdot think that once they get them off you property, any attempt to prevent them from being sold is a huge crushing blow to humanity.

      • by raymorris (2726007) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @05:43PM (#42061035)
        I once touched an electric fence with a three foot stick. I got quite a jolt. It's current, amps, that are dangerous, but it's volts that jump through insulation, and these things have a lot of volts. If you're unsure whether gloves, say thick leather work gloves, will help, consider this - an electric fence is designed to drop a 2,000 bull. A bull covered in non-conductive hair, and under that, covered in leather. Hmm, I'm giving advice for THIEVES. Come to think of it, everything I just said is a lie. All you have to do is use your T shirt to cover the wire, so your hands don't touch it directly. It'll work, I promise.
        • by NIK282000 (737852)

          As a licensed electrician and high voltage hobbiest I can assure you that a pair of rubber dish washing gloves will stand up to a 7kv electric fence long enough to cut the wires from the power supply. You got a shock because you touched the fence with a wooden stick, wood has a lot of water in it which is conductive and when it doesn't have water it does have a lot of carbon which is also very conductive at high voltages.

  • by Shavano (2541114) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @04:40PM (#42060267)
    A 10 microfarad, 10kV capacitor makes all the difference.
    • by viperidaenz (2515578) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @05:42PM (#42061031)
      Yeah, people keep saying that, but its not true. Have a read of ohms law. E=I*R and P=E*I (e=voltage, i=current, r=resistance, p=power) If you want to put 50ma through a person who has 2ko of body resistance, you need 100V. That'll pull 5 watts from the fence. If your electric fence is 10kv but can only deliver 1 watt, the voltage will drop to 45V and the current will be 22ma with a 2k load.

      You're pretty safe with anything less than 30ma. Most RCD safety devices wont trip until there is a 30ma leak.
      • by Shavano (2541114)

        Yeah, people keep saying that, but its not true. Have a read of ohms law. E=I*R and P=E*I (e=voltage, i=current, r=resistance, p=power) If you want to put 50ma through a person who has 2ko of body resistance, you need 100V. That'll pull 5 watts from the fence. If your electric fence is 10kv but can only deliver 1 watt, the voltage will drop to 45V and the current will be 22ma with a 2k load. You're pretty safe with anything less than 30ma. Most RCD safety devices wont trip until there is a 30ma leak.

        Electric fences are designed to give painful but NOT fatal electric shocks. I've touched one. Hurt like a sonofobitch. Didn't do any permanent damage though. These things won't stop thieves. They're designed to stop animals that can't understand electricity well enough to know that all you have to do is cut the wire or short it out.

  • to watch the action?
  • A former police officer friend of mine once sent me a pic of two electrocuted copper thieves, pretty nasty way to go. These two guys were trying to steal LIVE electric lines straight off of the pole, a bad career move on their part. A minor zap to deter bone-headed thieves would save lives. I'm not a licensed electrician, but 7,000 volts sounds kinda' deadly.
    • by skids (119237)

      but 7,000 volts sounds kinda' deadly

      Depends on the effective output resistance of the circuit.

    • Re:7,000 volts? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Baloroth (2370816) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @05:05PM (#42060585)

      I'm not a licensed electrician, but 7,000 volts sounds kinda' deadly.

      Not really, as they say "current kills", not voltage. Static electric discharges frequently have a higher voltage than that. Lethality depends on a number of different factors. Of course, 7,000 volts of continuous DC current would most certainly be enough to kill most people, but electric fences usually use short pulses rather than continuous flow (at least, animal fences I've worked with, and been shocked by, do).

    • Re:7,000 volts? (Score:4, Informative)

      by John Hasler (414242) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @06:28PM (#42061483) Homepage

      > I'm not a licensed electrician...

      This is clear.

      > ...but 7,000 volts sounds kinda' deadly.

      Electric fence chargers such as the one I use to keep my horses in put out short high-voltage pulses with an energy per pulse of about 6 Joules. The peak voltage is 5,000 to 10,000 volts. The shock is quite painful but not deadly. It leaves no mark and does no damage. I know this from direct experience.

  • here in nothing-happens land, we had a case a couple years ago where a copper thief decided he was going to clean out a power substation.

    as in 110,000 volts on that line.

    there was enough to drag into court recently to send to jail for it. but as long as ignorant meth-heads can bring in saw-cut cable and get cash, they'll continue to strip fire stations and chain up fiber-optic ducts and try to roll full spools into the trunks of compact cars.

    • Probably falls under reckless endangerment but if they could only leave a pile of copper coils out in the open, behind the fence of course, and connect it to a high power line...

  • 'It'll be a little fun to watch one of these guys get electrocuted holding my fence trying to rob me.'"

    Until the the thief turns around and tries to sue you and most likely wins.

    • Re:Lawsuit? (Score:4, Funny)

      by Fuzzums (250400) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @05:02PM (#42060549) Homepage

      'It'll be a little fun to watch one of these guys get electrocuted holding my fence trying to rob me.'"

      Until the the thief turns around and tries to sue you and most likely wins.

      Because he didn't know how to read the signs "copper thieves will be electrocuted; survivors will be electrocuted again"?

      • by Krojack (575051)

        If you haven't seen, people sue over the stupidest things in the US. He will claim that the warning signs weren't lit up at night or something.

  • As with cattle fences this would be a pulsed current, probably one or two pulses per second. They charge a capacitor to the peak voltage then dump it into a step-up transformer, reminiscent of old capacitor-discharge ignition systems for cars.

    This enables the number of Joules and the shape and duration of the pulse to be controlled, reducing the chance of fatalities, and so avoiding legal problems.

    As to gloves, 5KV to 7KV would be enough to break down many cheaper types of insulating gloves, so thieves may

  • I have one (Score:5, Funny)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @05:18PM (#42060733)
    A neighbor girl had fun teaching my dogs to jump my fence. She was climbing back and forth into my yard all the time and goading the dogs to follow her. They of course learned. So I went to the local farm implement store and was looking at invisible fences... they were expensive... then I saw the regular farm electric fence transformer was only $15! SOLD! A roll of aluminum wire was $5 for 1/4 mile and the insulators was another $2. So for $22 and about 2hrs work I had an electric fence.

    Well my neighbors were "outraged" The little girl that had been jumping the fence was now in "mortal danger" according to her mom. I told her "well maybe you should keep her off my fence then" The fact of the matter is, I got zapped by far worse fences than what I put up when I was a kid... and while it smarts, it doesn't do any real damage to you. Apparently there's a city ordinance against electric fences in town, they pointed this out to me... I pointed out that I really didn't care and I was already breaking at least a dozen others. They called the cops... cops never came. Apparently had more important things to do.

    Then, about 8 months later, the best thing ever happened (well for me anyway.) The neighbors got their house broken into. I guess it wasn't great for them. But the cops showed up, investigated, and told them there were tracks in the mud leading up to MY fence... then for some odd reason the moved over to their house, jumped the fence and kicked in the back door. The husband told me about this... wanted his own electric fence now. He said "When you stop laughing can you go with me to the store?"

    Long story short... electric fences rock. 2 of my neighbors have them to.
  • by godel_56 (1287256) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @05:26PM (#42060825)
    BTW, if you ever need to determine if your electric fence is switched on or not, without putting your tongue across it, a portable AM radio tuned between stations and held close to the wires will enable the HV pulses to be heard.
    • they have a nice little small town radio station in Detroit Lakes, MN with a nice little tower down near a lake, surrounded by grazing land. seems the cows kept breaking through the antenna feedline and putting them off the air.

      so they've got a wowzer electric fence protecting the feedline.

      probably has as much power as their dollar-a-holler station, for whenever you dial them in, you get the SNAP SNAP SNAP of their electric fence imposed on the broadcast signal.

      in Devils Lake, ND, they have a similar sit

  • Free Drugs (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @05:33PM (#42060915)
    How about instead of spending billions on replacing stolen goods and electric fences and insurance we instead spend millions giving away free crack, heroin and other addictive drugs? You get a card and you can go to a drug store and get free heroin. We'd save a LOT of dollars.
  • by pubwvj (1045960) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @05:56PM (#42061171)

    7,000 volts is not a high voltage fence. Our farm fences are 10,000 volts. It's not the voltage that will kill you though, it is the amperage that does you in. For this reason the fences are high voltage and low amperage. It hurts. However, if you're determined you can grab ahold of the fence and hang on right through the shocks. I've done it many times when needed.

    See this article:

    http://sugarmtnfarm.com/2007/07/23/calibrating-pain-fence-testing/ [sugarmtnfarm.com]

  • gloves, shoes, and maybe rain gear make the fence pointless? Oh, well I suppose the contractor installing the fence benefits so I guess it's OK.
  • by istartedi (132515) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @07:27PM (#42061943) Journal

    The blame for this problem rests almost totally at the feet of Ben Bernanke. His policies have driven commodity speculation and helped keep prices high. It's one of those "unintended consequences".

    If you want to stop copper theft, stop savings theft. The policy makers need to ask questions like, "Is it better in the long run to feed these people in a recession, or drive them to copper theft in a stagflation?".

    Treating drug addiction as a health problem rather than a crime problem will also help. If meth were available for $0.10/pill at the drugstore, I would not run out and become an meth fiend anymore than I would start huffing gasoline. Yes, people huff gasoline, they huff the propellant from Cheeze Whiz. We don't ban those things because the inability to drive or squirt cheese is deemed worse than the potential for people to huff shit. We treat huffing in the ER, and with social workers. We could treat meth like that too, and there would be less copper theft.

    Yeah, the housing market would collapse. You know what? Good! Stop foreclosures? Hell no. If you want to liberate people, you should be holding up signs that say START foreclosure. Yeah, people would hurt for a month or two getting kicked out of the big house with no equity and a $2000/mo mortgage. You know what? They'd move into an apartment with an $800/mo rent, and they might be able to save up for down payment on a house with a $1000/mo mortgage once the foreclosure was far enough behind them. That sounds more like freedom to me than... Oh, I digress...

    Anyway, the problem of copper theft isn't technical. It's social and economic. Quit applying technical fixes to social problems. Please. Pretty-please?

  • by denbesten (63853) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @07:29PM (#42061961)

    Having worked in the recycling industry for years, solving the "sales" side of this is easy.

    A posted and implemented policy of paying by check if the payout is greater than $20 makes most of these problems go away.

    This works because large volumes comes in trucks and legitimate businesses generally prefer to receive a check (prevents employee skimming).

    After that, invest in a few video cameras, particularly one trained at the parking lot exit (to pick up rear license plates). Attach these to a motion-detecting video recorder and make sure you know how to burn DVDs. The few times we have had to involve law enforcement, they were pretty happy with a plate number and footage including a face and "the goods".

    So far, we have never had the check cashed, but if we did, the cops would then have a tie to the criminal's financial institution and we would join their case with a counter-suit to get our money back.

    Keep in mind that we really do not want to make an illegal buck, but at the same time, we also want to earn the legal bucks as efficiently as possible.

  • by IonOtter (629215) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @08:39PM (#42062553) Homepage

    There was an area in Russia where thieves cut down a high-tension wire. They shot a steel cable over the line, shorting it out and causing the breakers to pop. They then cut out a HUGE section before it could reset. They got nearly 2 miles of cable.

    The local power company replaced the cables. They finish working at the other end, and give the okay to turn on the power. Two miles downrange, see a huge flash, then they hear *BOOM!* The power goes offline again, and the repair team goes back to where the first cut was made.

    They find a grass fire. After putting it out, they find that the cable had been cut again, and was in the process of being coiled up by the thief.

    The thief had been standing in the middle of the coil when the power was turned on.

    All they found was a pair of boots, with feet inside them. Everything else had been vaporized.

  • by _Shad0w_ (127912) on Thursday November 22, 2012 @08:06AM (#42065421)

    A lot of the cable theft in the UK is from the rail network, because it's almost all electrified using overhead power cables. Oddly this comes with its own inbuilt (mostly) 25 kV AC protection. It doesn't stop them. They also target the signal cables, which I think use high voltage as well.

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