Intrusion Detection for Aluminum Protection

Integrated system helps solve Aluma's metal theft problem


The buying and selling of metal scrap has been in practice since ancient times and today has become a multi-billion-dollar business. Machinery outlets, manufacturers, the government and various industries contribute to the collection of metal scraps. Metal scrap includes various forms of aluminum, including cans, used pipe, automobiles, appliances, sheet metal buildings, pots, computer components, pans, bicycles, lawn furniture, copper wire, obsolete equipment, old structural steel building frames, tin cans, and so on.

The metal scrap business might not sound glamorous, but many a fortune has been built around this premise, which is why it has become such a hot target for many thieves around the country.

The problem of metal theft is ever-present, but it has boomed in recent years. In fact, legislation has been introduced or been passed in many states as a preventative measure to combat this growing problem.

Thieves increasingly turn to stealing copper wire, aluminum or metal piping to trade for an easy dollar. Desperate to take advantage of higher metal prices, they are now even dressing as construction workers to steal wire from power lines or streetlights. Stolen metal is also difficult, if not impossible, to track, making it an even more appealing prospect to thieves.

According to law enforcement authorities, metal theft has become increasingly more expensive the past few years as thieves have started targeting public utilities and private businesses for loads of copper, brass, or aluminum, costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars. The problem now extends well beyond just the metal buyer or seller; it reaches everyday people like you and me.

Aluma's Challenge

Founded in 1964 as a Chicago insulation contractor, Aluma's Brand Energy and Infrastructure Services (Aluma) is a provider of specialty multi-craft services to the North American downstream energy infrastructure market. Its portfolio of service offerings includes work access, specialty coatings, abrasive blasting, insulation, refractory, corrosion protection, weatherproofing and other related crafts. Aluma operates in four key energy sectors: refining, Canadian oil sands, petrochemical and power generation. The company also serves the infrastructure construction markets throughout North America and in strategic international regions.

In conjunction with its services offering, Aluma maintains a six-acre open yard facility for warehousing the raw, high-priced aluminum and stainless steel it uses for construction projects. Because the storage facility is out in the open, it is easy prey for thieves to steal the expensive metal during the night. Thieves would break in through the perimeter fences and steal thousands of dollars of metal for scrap. After weeks of seeing an increase in theft, the company decided it was time to take some action.

At first, Aluma officials thought physical security was the best solution, so it hired a security guard for night and weekend patrols. The problem with this approach is that it was costly. Aluma found it was spending $10,000 a month - a direct hit against its profits - and at a time when the economy was down. At this pace of expense, the company quickly realized it needed a different, more cost-effective solution, but one that would still be as effective.

Aluma called on Homeland Security Group (HSG), the security division of Easter's Security Solutions, to come up with a solution. HSG met with Aluma officials and determined that putting in a video camera surveillance system with a central station would be a good solution to its problem. It would serve as the "eyes and ears" for the company, much as an on-premise security guard would, but at a fraction of the cost.

After installing the initial surveillance system, an unforeseen problem occurred - false alarms. The camera's video analytics feature had a high incidence of false alarms in the outdoor environment. If the wind blew or if it rained, alarms would go off and a reporting party would be dispatched to investigate, which cost time and additional expense. HSG needed to protect the premises with a solution that could withstand a challenging outdoor environment.

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