Copper theft continues to be a growing problem in region

By TAMMY DIXON

Tri-County Electric

Copper thefts from substations, utility poles and power lines continue to be a growing problem for Tri-County Electric and other utilities across the country.

Many people might assume the theft of a few feet of copper wire amounts to a little money and inconvenience for the power company; the truth is the theft of copper, whether it’s a distribution neutral or a substation ground grid, is not only a monetary loss for Tri-County Electric and our member-owners, but creates hazardous situations for the general public.

Damaged power lines pose a danger of electrocution to anyone in the area, including utility workers. Taking the copper neutral from several spans of distribution not only creates a direct hazard to the thief, but also creates potentially unsafe conditions for Tri-County Electric’s members and employees that could be life-threatening. Thieves often target copper ground wires and neutrals in the substations and distribution lines and without those wires, equipment may no longer be grounded or function correctly.  This increases the possibility of electric shock to employees entering the substations as well as anyone in the immediate area. The thefts also threaten the reliability and power quality of the electric system and can cause power outages. Nationwide studies and surveys have shown that member-owners/customers are experiencing personal injuries, property damage and outages as a direct result of these thefts.

We have listed additional risks to members due to copper theft on our website www.tcemc.org.  Tri-County Electric employees working in substations or on poles will be wearing identifying clothing and driving a Tri-County Electric vehicle.  While we also utilize contract crews, they and our employees will only be working Monday – Friday unless there is an outage.  If you have any information about possible copper thefts in your area or see suspicious activity (such as removing conductor or climbing poles at odd hours), please contact Tri-County Electric or your local law enforcement as soon as possible. Tri-County Electric is offering up to a $2,500 reward for anyone who furnishes information leading directly to the arrest and conviction of anyone stealing copper or other materials from Tri-County Electric and our member-owners.  Copper thieves are playing a dangerous game, but you can stop them.  By turning them in, the life or home that you save might just be your own!