Pointe Coupee Electric encourages others to help battle copper crime

Staff Writer
Plaquemine Post South

NEW ROADS - Metal theft - the crime that endangers lives and can result in thousands of dollars in damages ultimately paid for by you - continues to plague electric utilities all over America.

Copper wire is appealing to thieves who look to sell it for scrap. Burglars often climb power poles, scale fences, and break into buildings to steal the precious metal - almost always endangering themselves and others in the process. Between 2001 and 2008, the price of copper skyrocketed 500 percent. After a brief decline in 2009, it has hovered at a strong $3.40 per pound for the past several years.

"To a would-be thief, stealing copper may seem like a quick way to make a buck," says Joseph H. Cotten, Pointe Coupee Electric General Manager. "But it's illegal, it's costly, and it's not worth a life. Working with any metal and electricity is a dangerous combination, even for trained employees using proper equipment."

Some electric cooperatives stamp copper and aluminum wire with an ID number to deter theft. Stolen wire is commonly brought to recycling centers and traded for cash. Although many state laws require recycling centers to keep records of transactions, enforcement can be difficult. Without identifying marks, stolen wire is hard to track and rarely recovered. Legislation introduced on the federal level aims to improve tracking and impose stiffer penalties; most states have toughened metal theft laws over the past few years as well.

Thieves may not understand that they are risking their lives by taking copper from utility poles or substations, where high transmission voltage is stepped down to a lower current for distribution lines. Cotten urges you to follow these guidelines to guard against electrical dangers and prevent copper theft.

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• Never enter or touch equipment inside a substation; stay away from power lines and anything touching a power line.

• If you notice anything unusual with electric facilities, such as an open substation gate, open equipment, or hanging wire, contact your electric utility immediately.

• If you see anyone around electric substations or electric facilities other than Pointe Coupee Electric personnel or contractors, call the police.

• Install motion-sensor lights on the outside of your house and business to deter possible thieves.

• Store tools and wire cutters in a secure location, and never leave them out while you are away.

• If you work in construction, do not leave any wires or plumbing unattended or leave loose wire at the job site, especially overnight.

• Help spread the word about the deadly consequences that can result from trying to steal copper or aluminum wire.

Please help us prevent these thefts. If you notice anything unusual, call Pointe Coupee Electric immediately at 225-638-3751. If you see anyone other than cooperative personnel or contractors around substations or other electric facilities, call the police.