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For Electric Cooperative Members
For Electric Cooperative Members

Copper Crooks Threaten Lives

Help us spot theft and keep costs low

Would you risk being hit by lightning for $100? It’s a bit ludicrous, but that’s about what metal theft amounts to. It’s hard to understand why anyone would put their life on the line for a few dollars—to take such a huge risk for such a small return—but it happens.

Thefts of copper (and sometimes aluminum and bronze) are still an unfortunate fact at abandoned commercial buildings, empty homes and—most dangerously—power substations near neighborhoods. We need your help to keep our equipment safe, prevent outages and save lives.

Your co-op uses copper to ground equipment, protecting it from electrical surges and lightning by giving electricity a safe path to ground. We use a lot of copper wire in our substations, where we step down high-voltage electricity arriving from distant power plants before it travels to your neighborhood. Then another transformer near your home—either mounted on a utility pole or in a big box on the ground—lowers the voltage again so you can use the power at home. Copper is an essential component every step of the way.

Metal thieves can collect a couple hundred dollars’ worth of wire from a substation, but they leave behind a repair bill in the hundreds of thousands—or even millions, if the theft causes a fire. Fire in a substation can destroy regulators, switches, transformers and other expensive equipment. Thousands of co-op members are temporarily left in the dark after these incidents, even though co-ops move quickly to reroute power to affected areas.

Even without the damage done to co-op systems, the toll packs a big punch, since other equipment can be ruined without the protection that copper wires provide. There’s also the potential for loss of life.

Our linemen are highly trained professionals who understand the dangers of working with electricity and take proper safety precautions. To protect the public, we surround our substations with secure fencing and post warning signs. But some thieves will not be deterred.

Please help us prevent these thefts. If you notice anything unusual, such as an open substation gate, unprotected equipment or hanging wire, call your co-op immediately. If you see anyone other than our utility personnel or contractors around substations or other electric facilities, call the police.