Copper wire theft declines

Mar. 15, 2013 @ 08:01 PM

According to a Duke Energy spokesman, law enforcement in cooperation with company counter-measures is having an impact against copper wire theft.

Area sheriff’s offices are reporting copper wire theft is down from earlier in the year in the Tri-County area, following several arrests involving other counties in North Carolina.

Duke Energy, now merged with former Progress Energy, has a company-based anti-theft unit that constantly works on copper theft issues.

“We are working with recyclers to recognize copper types when dealing with scrap copper,” said Peter Brooks of Duke Energy.

Brooks said new statutes make it illegal to deal in utility copper wire, and provide for dealers to delay transactions if there is any doubt that needs to be researched.

“This makes it more difficult for copper thieves to sell their wares,” Brooks said.

According to Brooks, thieves use both ingenuity and brazenness in taking wire, targeting facilities at times, or open lines in remote areas at other times.

Methods range from taking on the appearance of repair crews to using a truck late at night to pull wire from poles quickly. Brooks said if activity appears suspicious, call local police or deputies right away.

“Of course, that pulling would be highly suspicious,” he said. “Also, our vehicles are always marked, and we use amber flashing lights.”

Another countermeasure, Brooks said, is widening use of a new copper-clad wire that is reducing the incentive to steal.

“It’s got no scrap value whatsoever,” he said. “It is valuable to us, of course,” but the theft attempt has no further impact than simple vandalism.

The company is also expanding use of better lighting, motion detectors and video surveillance at Duke Energy facility locations.

Vance County Sheriff Peter White said he has not seen power wire theft in recent weeks, although copper pipe theft from some buildings has taken place locally, according to recent incident reports.

“We have seen a significant amount of that wire theft here, especially Progress Energy wire, but not just recently though,” White said. “Dealers who used to purchase this stuff without asking questions are cooperating with law enforcement better now, and that has had an impact, too.”

Sheriff Johnny Williams said Warren County has seen a reprieve in recent weeks following an arrest in Halifax County of a man charged with numerous theft incidents.

“There are different people who are doing it, but since that arrest we have not been seeing it as much,” Williams said.

Granville County Sheriff Brindell Wilkins Jr. said theft of copper wire has not been a major issue there since a significant arrest about two years ago that took a theft crew of three off the streets.

“That was an arrest in the eastern part of the state,” Wilkins said. “They came over and took a lot of wire from an area near the border with Vance County.”

The sheriffs indicated a strong cooperation with Duke Energy’s anti-theft unit.

“We work with anybody who has an interest in what’s going on,” Williams said.

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.