Somewhere inside New York City’s subway system, five Bushnell trail cameras lie in wait. But there’s no deer for the cameras to capture—the devices are actually part of an experiment by the New York Police Department to catch a different type of prey. According to The New York Times, officers rigged the tunnels with the cameras in anticipation of copper thieves.
“If they’re in a tunnel and there’s no one around, they can spend all day down there,” said detective Nino Navarra. “It’s an investment.”
Metal theft, and theft of copper specifically, has become widespread across America’s cities. Telephone and power company structures are the most common targets, although thieves have become increasingly creative. Copper theft can be a lucrative endeavor, especially with the price of the metal rising over the past decade. In 2002, copper wiring was worth as little as 60 cents a pound. Now, scrap-metal companies in New York pay three dollars or more for the same amount.
In New York’s subway system, thieves target the thick negative return cables hidden behind tunnel walls. With a bit of electrical experience and a saw, the criminals can smuggle as much of the copper out as they can carry. The current spree of thefts from the tunnels reminded veteran officers of the same problem the city had 20 years ago, when the subway was a constant target of vandalism. The department now hopes that modern technology will help curtail the damage. The trail cameras were set up last September and with only five devices running, police have already recorded nine cases of trespassing.
“Within three hours of the first camera being installed at one location, copper cable thieves were caught on camera and eventually arrested,” Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesperson Kevin Ortiz told the Times.
Depending on the model, Bushnell trail cameras can run up to one year on a single set of batteries, making the device well-suited to constant surveillance. The cameras are motion-activated out to 45 feet and can boast a trigger speed of up to 0.6 seconds.