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KENT, Wash. -- Thieves have found a dependable victim in the country's electrical substations.

Documents supplied by Puget Sound Energy (PSE)show that over the last year, copper thieves hit utility substations nationwide more than 48,000 times. It's expensive, dangerous and out of control. PSE security officials say they have seen enough and are rolling in a motion detection security system they hope will catch thieves in the act.

We are moving to deploy a covert camera alarm system, said PSE Corporate Security Manager David Foster. It's a first of its kindin the utility industryin the Pacific Northwest.

The system uses the same motion detection technology to trigger cameras that are found in many building security systems. When movement is detected, the system sets off an alarm at a control center operated by a private contractor. Workers there watch it to make sure it's a true break-in and then contact police. It gives police a chance to catch the thieves in the act rather than just respond to thefts hours after they occur.

PSE says the system costs about as much as the repairs to burglarized substation.

Foster said the break-ins not only put the thieves in extreme danger of electrocution, the holes they cut in fencesprovide an opendoor tocurious children and pets.

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