08/18/10 — Increase in copper thefts has electric co-ops worried

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Increase in copper thefts has electric co-ops worried

By Staff Reports
Published in News on August 18, 2010 1:46 PM

DUDLEY -- Commodity prices for copper have more than double from what they were two years ago having reached approximately $3 per pound. These increased prices coupled with a struggling economy have led to a surge in recent copper thefts across the nation.

Copper thieves often target electric utilities, including electric cooperatives like Tri-County EMC, because copper is widely used within the electric distribution system.

As a result, North Carolina's electric cooperatives have encountered a range of burglaries from copper being stolen from trucks to copper thefts at electrical substations.

North Carolina recently passed legislation to make it more difficult for thieves to sell stolen metals, including copper, but the trend is still growing.

"Tri-County EMC cares about the safety of our members and the general public. Here are a few things you can do to protect yourselves and others," General Manager Michael Davis said.

* If people see any unusual activity in or around substations, towers, storage sites and other electric utility property, they are asked to call 911 or report it to their local electric cooperative immediately.

* Heed warning signs posted near electrical equipment.

* Do not climb substation fences, utility poles or towers.

* Stay away from substations and transformers. Such activities are hazardous and can result in severe burns and in some unfortunate cases, death.