Raise alertness for thefts of copper power lines
Stretches of freeways in West Oahu were darkened last week because of thefts of copper wire from power poles.
THE soaring price of copper and the rise in methamphetamine use appear to have combined last week to leave parts of West Oahu freeways in the dark. The theft of copper wire from power poles
is occurring across the country. Public vigilance, police perseverance and skepticism by scrap dealers are the most plausible methods of combating the danger.
Police say thieves removed wiring last week from about 50 poles along H-2 freeway north of its connection to H-1. About as many lights went off between Kapolei and Kunia. A similar theft of wiring in the same area in December cost the state about $50,000 to repair. Police in Pearl City say copper rain gutters have been stolen from schools and businesses in the past month.
The spike in thefts has left law enforcement and electric utility officials perplexed. In recent cases, thieves took copper wire from a transformer box in Contra Costa, Calif., from power company work sites in Wisconsin, from old houses and buildings across New York and from a storage facility at Kansas State University. Police believe the copper proceeds are used to buy drugs, mainly methamphetamine.
The thievery is not limited to the United States. Eleven Dublin men were arrested last week for the theft of more than $10,000 worth of copper wire from an Irish power station. Theft of copper wire from power lines has prompted Taiwan's state-run power company to replace the lines with less expensive aluminum.
Partly because of the building boom in China, demand for metals has driven prices to new heights. Demand for copper has increased by 4 percent since 2002 and is expected to continue at that rate. Pure copper sells for about $2.10 a pound, while scrap copper goes for $1.30 to $1.80 a pound, about doubling from last year.
TXU Electric Delivery, a Texas power company, is searching for ways to detect or deter copper thievery after experiencing more than 50 wire thefts from its Dallas area substations last year, according to Transmission & Distribution World, an industry magazine. One method would be to stamp logos or symbols on the wire to make it more identifiable and un-sellable to scrap metal buyers.
The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries alerts dealers when large thefts of metal occur to help them avoid buying it, but dealers fear losing business if they press customers about the source of their copper wire. A detective in Springfield, Ill., who receives an average of two complaints of metal thefts a day, is urging dealers to install video cameras to help police identify customers.
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