FedEx has approached Grove City leaders about installing an electric fence at its hub facility on South Meadows Drive to help prevent breaches of the property.

Grove City's general-offenses code has a provision prohibiting fences that use barbed wire, metal spikes, prongs and electric, according to law director Stephen Smith said, so some action of Grove City Council would be needed to grant permission.

An electric fence has worked at other FedEx hub locations, including in Indianapolis, Matt Wunderle, a security specialist with the company told Grove City Council last month.

The Grove City hub had eight breaches in 2016, he said.

"This is not kids climbing over a fence," Wunderle said. "This is sophisticated criminals who actually cut doorways through the (existing) fences. It's not one person. It's crews of three or four people driving vehicles."

The Grove City facility is surrounded mostly by farmland, he said.

FedEx has roving security crews, but with 2 miles of fence to cover, it's impossible for them to be everywhere at once, Wunderle said.

"We don't sit still when crime happens," he said.

The company is spending more than $7,000 in additional monthly security costs, including renting light towers, hiring extra guards, taking additional landscaping measures and adding covert cameras, Wunderle said.

"Because we are surrounded by farmland, there's no way Grove City police can patrol the area and provide adequate protection from criminals who want to break into our facilities," he said.

In addition, current infrared-laser technologies "are not up to doing 2 miles of fencing," Wunderle said.

Security cameras that sense motion are in place at the facility, but deer and other animals cause a steady stream of false alarms, he said.

"There's no better system for this size of fencing" than the electric fence, Wunderle said.

Grove City is the third-largest FedEx hub in the nation, he said. The facility has more than 1,200 hourly employees and it is the second largest employer in Grove City, he said.

Crime deterrent

The electric fence FedEx wants to install is manufactured by Electric Guard Dog, a Columbia, South Carolina, company.

The system is powered by 12-volt batteries, which are charged by solar panels, said Cindy Williams, the company's director of business development and compliance.

The fence applies a safe, pulsed 7000-volt shock to an intruder every 1.3 seconds, she said. The duration of a shock is 1/10,000 of a second.

"There are no burn marks, no red marks," Williams said. "But if someone is brave enough to touch it, they probably won't want to touch it a second time."

Signs in both English and Spanish that warn of the 7,000-volt shock usually are sufficient "to deter the bad guys," she said.

If someone attempts to cut the fence, an audible alarm sounds alerting security guards where the attempted breach has occurred, Williams said.

The Electric Guard Dog system "doesn't slow down the crime, it stops the crime," she said.

The Indianapolis hub was experiencing the same problem with breaches five years ago when FedEx installed Electric Guard Dog's security fence, Wunderle said.

"Since then we've not had one incident of theft or anyone getting injured on the fence," he said.

The electric fence would be about 1 1/2 feet behind the regular fence line and would not be visible to anyone more than 10 feet away, Wunderle said.

It could not be touched through the regular fence.

Williams said Electric Guard Dog has a model ordinance that includes industry standards that have been used in other communities where its fencing system was installed.

"We don't want you to put in an ordinance that's lax enough that someone else could come in who's not reputable and give the industry a black eye," she said.

In addition to the industry standards, City Council could add provisions that would hold the city harmless from liability for any damages or lawsuit that might result if it approves the electric-fence proposal, Williams said.

The hold-harmless provision could be a requirement for any company who wants to put in an electric fence, she said.

FedEx wants to put up the electric fence in a "U-shaped installation" that will cover approximately 8,700 feet, Wunderle said.

The wrought-iron fence at the front of the facility is decorative and not a security measure, so it would not receive any additional fencing, he said. Three security-guard houses are at the front of the property.

"Nothing on state Route 665, no forward-facing or street-facing fence lines will be electrified," Wunderle said.

The company also would install a system that would allow police officers or firefighters to gain entry to the site, he said. The company also would bring in law-enforcement personnel to familiarize them with the electric-fence system, he said.

Next steps

The FedEx facility is in Councilman Jeff Davis' Ward 2. He said he toured the FedEx facility to get a better understanding of the security issues the company is facing.

"One of the parts of the conversation that resonated the most (with me) is that FedEx in its size has significant contracts with suppliers," Davis said. "They deliver for certain key constituents. If the break-ins happen to interrupt that delivery schedule, that is jeopardizing contracts of some real size that are much bigger than Grove City.

"The other thing is that they probably know better about their own security than we do. I don't want to be presumptuous about what they think it would take to protect their property."

Davis said he would forward the model ordinance provided by Williams to other council members "and that will at least start the conversation."

If City Council decides to allow the fence, Smith said, he was uncertain whether members would decide to enact an ordinance to remove the ban against electric fences or craft legislation specifically for FedEx. He said he is preparing information for both possibilities but has not received any direction from council members.

A City Council member would have to introduce the legislation to get the ball rolling. No timeline requested by the company or set by City Council for a decision to be made.

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