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Metals theft is growth opportunity for detection system firms

By JACK WEATHERLY

Metals theft is $1 billion problem, according to the U.S. Energy Department.

That means it’s an opportunity to provide a service to guard against the trend.

And making money.

Videofied, which had been a privately owned leading global provider of intrusion detection systems, cashed in two months ago when it was sold to Honeywell International for $123 million.

“We have a strong market in agriculture,” said Keith Jentoft of Minnesota-based Videofied.

Thieves can strip copper wire from the engine that powers the center-pivot systems and pull the wire from the irrigation arms in a couple of hours and make “a few hundred bucks,” Jentoft said. But the damage can cost $20,000, he said.

“Putting things back together is way more valuable than the copper itself.”

But with Videofied, authorities are notified within 40 seconds. And even if the miscreants are seeking to destroy the surveillance apparatus and sensors, that will be reported, then relayed to law enforcement, Jentoft said.

The is very little vandalism of the system, he said. The control panel is about the size of a large book and infrared sensors are each about the size of a coffee cup.

Though the price of copper has dropped in the past few years, thieves are more efficient. “They are trained now. There are blog sites on what to do.”

Metals theft is, of course, not limited to agriculture. FAA radar installations, substations, cellular towers, construction sites and vacant buildings are also targets.

Evidence that agricultural thefts are important for Verified is the fact that its system was recognized as one of the top ten prizes at the World Ag Expo in February at Tulare, Calif.

“We can see the demand growing in ag,” he said. Google Earth can show crooks where the assets are, he observed.

A basic system costs from $3,000 to $5,000, he said.

The company also has found a market in helping to prevent theft of cattle, crawfish traps and syrup-making equipment.

“We catch them in the act,” he said.

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About Jack Weatherly

One comment

  1. T-L pivots are hydraulically driven (no AC powered), so they do not have copper wire on them. They are not a target of copper thieves.

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