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Copper Grinch Steals Christmas

We know copper thieves are pulling down utility lines, gutting air-conditioning units, raiding homes under construction and threatening the lives of people on life support. Now they’ve stolen 15,000 feet of underground wiring that provides the magical lighting on Austin’s Trail of Lights. Approximately $85,000 worth of copper disappeared from Zilker Park in August. The thieves pulled up manhole covers to get to wiring.

Leaders say they will transfer money from some other key program to ensure that the annual Christmas event is lighted in its usual style. So Austin is joining many other towns and cities that are making it harder to access underground wiring.

Meanwhile, Wood County Electric Cooperative (WCEC) in East Texas has turned to technology to foil the ever-growing plague of copper thieves. WCEC is adding DataDot markers to property throughout its distribution system to help identify stolen property. The microdots, no larger than a piece of glitter, are laser etched with specific codes registered to the cooperative. While very hard to see with the naked eye, the presence of DataDots can be detected through the use of a special kit, which only takes seconds to use.

“We believe this product will offer WCEC a technological advantage, and we hope it makes anyone think twice before vandalizing our system. Their actions are causing dangerous conditions for the public, which cannot be tolerated,” said Debbie Robinson, general manager and CEO of the cooperative.