When Michael Hayden walked onto a tower site near Camden, N.J., in January at the request of American Tower Corp., he was performing a routine RF compliance services inspection. What the Lawrence Behr Associates director of site services found was a rip-off. Literally.

Two air conditioning units attached to exterior walls had been ripped open and left dangling, with wires, electric motors, and fan housings rendered useless and exposed to the elements. Why? The answer is in what was missing from the units: all of their copper tubing.

“I’ve seen it before,” Hayden says. The veteran engineer has discovered similar thefts at both radio and cell tower sites.

“As long as copper prices continue to rise and the economy continues to plummet, this will continue to be a problem, especially in poorer areas,” Hayden says. Copper has tripled in price in the last three years from $1.50 a pound, though it has fallen back to about $3.50 a pound at the moment. Some market analysts expect the price to reach $5 this year.

Many tower sites have a basic security problem that makes them attractive to thieves: They are relatively isolated. Observes Hayden, philosophically: “If the thieves want the copper, they are going to get it. All you can do is minimize your risk.

He suggests tower site owners and carriers take two actions to protect their investment: (1) Put razor wire atop the surrounding fence to discourage would-be thieves from scrambling over it; and (2) visit sites more frequently to increase the odds of interrupting thieves’ planning.

The LBA executive contacted American Tower personnel after finding the damaged AC units. American Tower in turn called Sprint and a second carrier to inform them of their losses. Hayden may be called to testify about his discovery.

LBA Group looks after its clients. It offers solutions in the planning of engineering projects, in execution of them—and in helping keep bad guys from ruining up-and-running facilities.

A tip of the hat to Mike.

One of two shelter AC units gutted of copper

About The Author

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LBA Group, Inc. has 60 years of experience in providing RF asset solutions and risk management for industrial and telecommunications infrastructure assets. The group is comprised of LBA Technology, a leading manufacturer and integrator of radio frequency systems, lightning protection and EMC equipment for broadcast, industrial and government users worldwide; the professional consultancy Lawrence Behr Associates and LBA University, providing on-site and online professional training. The companies are based in Greenville, N.C., USA.

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