A local company is using technology to combat copper thieves around the country.
It’s called the CopperCAM and is manufactured and sold by RoboVu, an Ahwatukee Foothills-based company that sells computer surveillance and equipment to law enforcement agencies, the military, and private businesses. The company specializes in gear that can endure rough conditions and extreme weather.
The surveillance system provides businesses with video that can be used to identify and prosecute copper thieves. A text message is sent to owners alerting them that someone is on their roof and near an air conditioning unit or other expensive machinery containing copper. Businesses can also elect to have loud alarms and spotlights to scare away would-be thieves.
Ahwatukee Foothills resident Ed Foster, founder and CEO of RoboVu, said unlike law enforcement officials, who would rather detect copper thieves, business owners would rather deter them before any damage can be done.
“They want the people to get caught, but they don’t want their $15,000 AC unit taken,” Foster said.
The system also utilizes video analytics like facial recognition, object tracking, loitering, and other technologies to help identify possible suspects.
“So what we’re doing is not rocket science,” Foster said. “We’re utilizing technology that’s out there. We’ve deployed it many times, and we’re basically going after the commercial market because of such a need.”
Copper theft has been a major problem for businesses and communities around the country as thieves target things like air conditioning units and pipes in an attempt to sell the parts and make some fast cash. Last year in Arizona, copper thieves caused $120 million in lost property and damages, according to a RoboVu press release.
New legislation was recently enacted to help curb copper theft around the state. House Bill 2396 was signed into law on March 21, increasing the penalties for theft from a misdemeanor to a felony by charging suspected thieves with the value of damage to a property caused by theft, instead of just the value of the copper itself.
“Our goal is twofold. We hope potential thieves will think twice knowing that a victim may be equipped with a CopperCAM,” Foster said. “If the deterrent factor isn’t enough, then our video surveillance should help authorities identify and prosecute copper thieves, getting them off the street and more importantly off of our rooftops.”
Foster said while the price of stolen copper can be substantial, many businesses suffer even more as they have to shut down operations until a new air conditioning unit can be installed. He described how one business lost 15 AC units costing $15,000 per unit. The company had to suspend operations for more than two weeks until the units could be replaced.
“There are a lot of people in this economy who can’t afford to be out of business,” Foster said. “The cost they incur well outweighs the ability to put up a solution that can deter anyone from getting near their valuable assets.”
For more information on the CopperCAM, visit www.robovu.com.
• Michael Mashburn is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. He is a junior at Arizona State University.