Steeling copper from parking lot underground runs is one of the most expensive copper thefts to repair.
Spools of copper wire are often stolen from construction sites, before they are installed. The copper wire is then taken to a recycling center for $2.54 per pound (scrapregister.com, 3/6/15). When stolen from a job site, the financial responsibility to replace the copper often falls on the contractor. Once the copper is installed, it is the owner/managers responsibility to replace the wire.
Replacing spools of copper on a job site means a trip to the local supply house to pick up more wire. Replacing installed copper wire can prove much more expensive. After the new copper is purchased, in must then be installed, damaged conduit replaced and cut concrete repaired.
The Albuquerque Journal ran a story in January of 2014 highlighting the Isleta Amphitheater parking lot. Thieves stole $50,000 worth of copper wire out of 68 of 78 light poles in the “sprawling and largely unsupervised” parking lot (Lohman, 2014). According to the article, the light poles were otherwise undamaged. Authorities believe the theft was committed by someone in the electrical industry and used a truck to pull the wire out of the ground. The managers of the amphitheater were looking for ways to secure the hand holes of the poles.
There are a number of things that can be done to secure the copper. Starting inside the pole, The Copper Stopper II is a bracket, mounting under the pole and clamping to the wires, holding them in place. This is a simple solution but it does not secure the hand hole, only hold the copper wire above the conduit. This product is not a visible to thieves, so they will still try to steel the copper; often cutting the wires so short the entire run needs to be replaced. This product also needs to installed under the pole, meaning this is only piratical with new installations. The other option is to fill the conduit with epoxy, locking the wire in the ground. With this method, the wires cannot be removed and new conduit must be installed if anything goes wrong with the wires.
There are also many external options. Starting with the simplest option; welding the hand hole cover to the pole. This will prevent all access to the wire, by maintenance workers and thieves. This is against both Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) and The National Electrical Code (NEC). Hand holes are a junction box and must have access. Welding this junction box cover shut prevents access incase of emergency or failure. Despite this fact, welding covers shut is a common practice across the exterior lighting industry.
Tamper resistant hardware is the next option to secure hand hole. Common security screws are pin-in-torx and spanner bits, but these drivers are easily available at most hardware stores. Custom security screws and hand hole covers can be manufactured but a you need a large quantity of identical poles to make this economical.
Pole Lock Locking Hand Hole Cover
The most secure device is a locking hand hole cover. There are a few different options in the market. The Pole Lock and The Universal Locking Hand Hole Cover. Both products are designed to stop all unwanted access to light pole hand holes, yet are easily removed with the correct key or combo. The Pole Lock wraps around the pole and uses an expensive, high security Magnum Master Lock. The design holds the lock outside the cover, exposing it to the elements and can only use a keyed lock. The Universal Locking Hand Hole Cover has a conventional hand hole cover design, using a backing bar inside the pole and clamps to the pole. It is designed around the 175D Master Lock on with any standard 1″ shank, keyed or combo lock. The lock is held inside the body of the cover and is protected from bolt cutters and the elements. Taking all of this into concatenation, we recommend the Universal Locking Hand Hole Cover.
If thieves are determined to get into the pole, they will. In Las Vegas, there is a string of copper thefts using a plasma cutter to cut holes in the pole. This level of extreme determination is rare, but not unheard of.