Phoenix company selling solution for nation's copper theft probl - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Phoenix company selling solution for nation's copper theft problem

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

Copper theft from cities and utility companies is an epidemic that is ultimately costing taxpayers across the country millions of dollars each year.

There is a big reason you hear and read a lot about thieves stripping copper wire out of utility boxes and power stations - it's easy.

Thieves then sell that copper to scrap recyclers and come away with big money.

The problem is repeated daily in cities across America. A Phoenix company is selling a solution to city governments and utility companies all over the U.S.

"Vancouver to Houston and Hawaii to Florida," says MR Steel sales representative Bill Herron about where his company's product have been sold.

Officials in Sacramento, CA just bought $1.1 million worth of MR Steel's new anti-copper theft invention.

It is a security lid for utility boxes at the base of light poles and streetlights, a favorite target of thieves. The device is an impenetrable steel locking cap forged from 1/4-inch thick, diamond-plated galvanized steel.

The lid attaches to vulnerable utility boxes and locks in place with steel hinges and a patented drill bit and bolt.

"So far, 17,000 we have in the ground right now. Without a breech," said Herron.

The unique invention is a long way from where the company, MR Steel, got its start. Originally, the company manufactured steel components for modular buildings. When the economy started to sour in 2007, company leaders needed fresh ideas.

"We were researching products on the internet, and we found a city here in Arizona that was experiencing the copper theft," Herron said.

Business is booming now; up 200 percent from 2011. There are 11 full-time employees including Herron who drives coast to coast spreading the news about his company's product and showcasing Arizona ingenuity.

"They love that there's a solution," said Herron of the cities he has sold to, "because they've tried everything.

Copyright 2012 CBS 5 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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