Preventing the Theft of Wire Cutters

This is a picture of a pair of wire cutters secured to a table with a wire.

Someone isn't thinking this through....

Posted on August 26, 2011 at 3:07 PM • 28 Comments


SeiranAugust 26, 2011 3:22 PM

This comment says it exactly:
"Actually this will stop the most likely cause of theft, people walking away with them without realizing it and then not bothering to return them. If will also force potential thieves to admit to themselves what they're doing."

It's the same reason why pens at supermarket checkouts have spoons and plastic flowers taped to them.

TimHAugust 26, 2011 3:22 PM

Bad example. It's to prevent casual 'borrowing' in a work environment, not swiping permanently. I run a light chain with tiny padlock through my workdesk test equipment for the same reason.

Dom De VittoAugust 26, 2011 4:08 PM

Doh! Obviously he didn't do a proper risk assessment.

Yes, they could steal the cutters, but a more common crime that cutter theft is cable theft !

That cable will be gone in a flash unless it's locked up.

anonymousAugust 26, 2011 4:37 PM

"I think you've designed the cover of Bruce's next book there, Jeff..."

Wires and Outwires?

TimAugust 26, 2011 4:59 PM

I don't see why this is stupid. Clearly no-one actually *steals* wire cutters. They just borrow them and never both to give them back.

DanielAugust 26, 2011 5:54 PM

"Wires and Outwires?"

See. This joke is better than all the other ones in the actual "joke" thread that sadly caused so much moderator activity.

Lowell GilbertAugust 26, 2011 6:52 PM

My son was chuckling at exactly such a set-up as we visited the hardware store today. I pointed out that it clearly wasn't to keep the tool from really being stolen, since wire cutters that *weren't* tied down were only a couple of aisles away.

replyAugust 26, 2011 7:10 PM

Maybe there is a current running through the wire that either "incapacitates" the person who cuts the wire or sounds an alarm?

GabrielAugust 26, 2011 8:25 PM

To play devils advocate, I thought the same as Tim. This is at a workplace, where no one steals but rather they keep borrowing, until no one knows what goes where. Tying it with a wire makes a would be borrower aware that the owner doesn't want it to be wired. To take the wire cutters, they would have to knowingly steal them by cutting the wire. So, no deniability when someone sees them with the wire cutter there.

Of course, instead of a wire, how about a Kevlar rope? I can guarantee that the cutter for that will be more expensive than the desired wire cutter.

LisaAugust 26, 2011 9:12 PM

I agree with Gabriel. It is not done to prevent a determined hardcore thief, but to deter people from casually walking away with it. Since they would have to begin the act with the highly visible and criminal action of physical destruction that could not be denied.

Humans have evolved as an opportunistic species, so small deterrents with real consequents are all that the vast majority of people need to do the right thing.

It is the same logic why people lock their doors, when it is often trivial to break through ground floor glass windows.

GweihirAugust 26, 2011 10:27 PM

Hahaha, great!

I don't know where this is or what the average salary there is, but the right way to deal with it is to just saturate the system with wire-cutters. They are not expensive if you buy a box with 100. And after as short while everybody that wants one has one and the thefts/borrowing stop. That is the same approach that works with office pens. Not worthwhile at all to track them and if you can raise morale a bit because there are "free" pens (or wire-cutters), but with a limit (you do not want to take so many that others notice), that is a very cheap way to do so.

AutolykosAugust 27, 2011 4:34 AM

It could also make a difference depending on the legal system you're in. At least here in Germany, you'll get a harder punishment if you stole something that's secured against theft, no matter how ineffectively (a fine or up to 5 years versus 3 months to 10 years). However, this does not apply to things of low value, and I think the wire cutters are a perfect example for this.

Dr. I. Needtob AtheAugust 27, 2011 3:50 PM

"Someone isn't thinking this through...."

Or, more likely, a Redditor did think it through and figured out how to create a bogus photo that would win him over 2,000 upvotes.

GabrielAugust 27, 2011 8:43 PM

@Christopher: through Kevlar rope? Not a small cord. Rope. You'll be working that hand axe for a while, ruining the edge on the blade for a cheap wire cutter. Also, you'll probably draw quite a bit of attention walking in to work with that.

Nick PAugust 27, 2011 11:54 PM

Dr. I. Needtob Athe

"Or, more likely, a Redditor did think it through and figured out how to create a bogus photo that would win him over 2,000 upvotes."


Steven HooberAugust 28, 2011 4:49 PM

I've worked in a hardware store. Indeed, people steal wirecutters. Actually, they steal anything not bolted down.

And, almost all theft is performed or assisted by employees. Really. Look it up.

The best defense: Make it not easy to get out of the store, or not worth it. Cheap (or cheap-looking) cutters is one answer. Another is over-sized devices, so you can't just put them in the back pocket, inadvertently or on purpose.

jetAugust 29, 2011 10:51 AM

This is standard practice at MIG (GMAW) welding stations in welding shops I've used. As others have said, it's not to prevent theft, it's to prevent someone from borrowing the cutters "just for a minute" and forgetting to return them. No cutters handy means that the welding station is effectively unusable.

anonAugust 29, 2011 12:21 PM

Steven Hoober: "Actually, they steal anything not bolted down."

Yep, it's time to bolt down those wrench sets!

RHAugust 29, 2011 4:18 PM

Now the question we should all be asking is "does the wire hurt usablity?" If not, then the security tradeoff is totally worth it.

If I need to cut a wire that can't be maneuvered within 3 feet of the cutters? The cutters are going to be free from their chain awfully fast.

MRCAugust 30, 2011 4:29 AM

Gweihir: Saturating the market works for a while.
Until people start taking pens home because they're "free", and as the supply of free pens reduces your users begin to take whole boxes for their own personal use to make sure they always have pens. Leading to further pen shortages and the development of a small pen bartering system.
As a side note once I ordered a box of 20 "nice" pens numbered them with a QR tracking code and then allowed them to go out as normal to the office. Within a month they had all been taken.
7 ended up in the trash broken in half, 4 on the bosses desk and the rest made their way through various parts of the building ending up in shipping where the drivers took them to parts unknown.
I would really like to try this in a big company with several thousand pens and a more exact tracking method.

ProteusAugust 31, 2011 5:20 PM

There isn't sufficient context here to determine that the wire is intended as a theft deterrent.

For example, it could just as easily be a drop deterrent — I've seen plenty of semi-public workbenches that chain or strap tools to prevent them being dropped or used away from the bench (which in turn is meant to lessen the chance the tools will be used dangerously).

Leave a comment

Allowed HTML: <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre>

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.