NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Con Edison has launched a program aimed at deterring copper wire thefts and protecting its equipment.

The utility is spraying identifying markings on copper and equipment that’s invisible to the naked eye but visible with a ultraviolet light.

The program allows police to identify who stole a piece of metal and from where.

Copper is used in Con Edison’s electrical delivery system. Thieves often sell the copper to scrapyards for cash.

In March, three Long Island Rail Road workers were charged with stealing thousands of pounds of copper wire from the railroad and selling it for scrap.

Authorities say the workers removed wire cables from job sites, loaded them onto LIRR trucks and then transferred them onto their own vehicles. They say wire was later sold to local recyclers for cash.

In January 2013, 15 LIRR workers were charged in an alleged copper theft scheme.

Between Jan. 1, 2010 and Jan. 10, 2013, prosecutors said sales of the copper netted the alleged thieves more than $253,000 — money that should have gone to the LIRR, which was in the midst of budget woes, pension scandals, and rising passenger fares, CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan reported.

Under the program, the company will work with the police to review records and products at metal and scrapyards.

Con Ed says there were 155 copper cable thefts in 2013. The metal was removed from manholes, trucks and company facilities.

It says copper theft is a leading cause of power outages.

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