Copper theft awareness

Copper theft is a serious problem costing electric cooperatives and our members thousands of dollars each year. Individuals who steal copper from electric utility equipment create life-threatening situations for themselves, our employees and the public, and can interrupt service.

You can help prevent copper theft. If you see anything unusual, or anyone other than utility personnel or contractors around electrical facilities, equipment or utility poles, call 911 immediately.

Why do people steal copper?

Thieves steal copper wire, piping and other materials in hopes of selling it to scrap dealers for cash. In 2004, the market price for copper began to climb and it has remained high ever since. The number of copper theft incidents generally increases or decreases with the price of copper. Utilities and law enforcement have taken action to deter copper theft, but it still remains a serious problem.

How does copper theft create life-threatening situations?

Anytime someone tampers with energized electrical equipment, they create an extremely dangerous situation and put themselves in danger of electrocution.
There are many documented cases of copper thieves being seriously injured or killed. In addition, copper thieves almost always leave the area unsafe for the public and unsuspecting utility workers. According to a 2009 survey performed by Electrical Safety Foundation International, the estimated number of injuries resulting from copper theft nationwide for the previous 12 months was 52, and the estimated number of copper theft fatalities nationwide was 35.

What is being done to deter copper theft?

Though copper theft remains an issue, utilities, lawmakers, scrap metal dealers and law enforcement have been successful in working together to reduce the problem. Utilities have launched public awareness campaigns, and legislation designed to deter these crimes has been passed in most states, including Minnesota.

How much does copper theft cost utilities?

Each year the utility industry spends thousands of dollars repairing equipment damaged by copper theft, and often the value of the copper taken by a thief is worth only a few dollars. According to a 2009 survey performed by Electrical Safety Foundation International, the total estimated impact of copper thefts from utilities nationwide was more than $60 million for the previous 12 months.

What can I do to help prevent copper theft? What should I look for?

The most important thing you can do is be alert and if you see something, call 911. Be on the lookout for anything unusual at electrical facilities such as open gates, exposed equipment and people who look out of place.