New Technology May Curb Copper Theft In Tulsa

Tuesday, March 29th 2011, 5:01 pm
By: News On 6

Lori Fullbright, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- Authorities are trying to stop the huge amount of copper theft in Oklahoma. Tulsa alone has had 50 tons of copper taken by thieves.

The problem is there's no way for police to prove it's stolen. Now, a technology called DataDots can be sprayed onto the copper.

02/23/2011 Related Story: Tulsa Police Using 'Data Dots' To Help Track Stolen Property

The tiny dots are the size of glitter and nearly impossible to see, but contain a serial number that police and scrap metal dealers can see using a special light.

Thieves are costing churches, businesses and cities, hundreds of thousands of dollars by pulling copper out of air conditioners, street lights, transformers, anywhere they can get it.

They then sell it for scrap and walk away with some cash. Even if an officer stops a guy with a load of copper, there's no way to know if it's stolen because it's not marked in anyway.

DataDots technology can change all that.You spray the tiny dots onto the copper. Each tiny dot has a serial number, so it's like giving the copper its own DNA.

"This is the way law enforcement sees it, with a black light, it's gonna glow and they can see the areas that are marked," said Dave Barnes of DataDots.

Dave Barnes came to Tulsa to talk to police officers and business owners about how they can use his product to protect their property, not just copper but anything.Lee Pang owns a shopping center at 51st and Peoria. He was very interested because thieves stole the copper from his air conditioning units on top of his buildings last summer.

"The copper theft was a great inconvenience to our tenants, who needed use of the air conditioners," Pang said.

Plus, his insurance premiums went up by 25 percent. He and his leasing agent support anything that will help stop this growing problem.

"I've never heard of this before. I think it's a great idea," said Jim McDowell, leasing agent.

Even if the thieves know the dots are on the copper, they can withstand massive amounts of heat and other techniques to remove them."May try to remove the dots, but they're practically impossible to get off the copper," Barnes said.

Tulsa police say data dots are an easy way for business owners and citizens to use mark their property. Burglary detectives will be checking stolen items for dots in the future.

You can register your dots once you buy them, so police can check the database and know they belong to you.

If you don't want to register them, just write down the serial number on your dots and keep it in case something is stolen.

Dots for home use come in a little glue bottle. They're about $20 if you buy them through the Tulsa Citizen Crime Commission's website.