Copper Wire Theft

By G Fox, Editor, The Electricity Forum

Copper Wire Theft
Easy Target - Copper Wire Bundles



Each and every year, thousands of copper wire thefts occur across North America that not only putting the safety of the thief at risk but emergency responders, utility workers, and local residents.  This ultimately results in power outages, increased costs to utilities that are ultimately passed on to taxpayers, injuries, and in some cases, even deaths.  Expensive

Copper wire theft costs the electricity sector are significant. Estimated by copper thefts have tripled within the last 5 years. With copper pricing over $200US, the amount of copper stolen now exceeds $1 billion US annually. Like all consumer-based sectors, these costs are eventually passed on to the tax payers through higher electricity bills.   The costs are even greater when the downstream impacts on other sectors, including telecommunications and construction, are considered.

 A Threat to Reliability

Copper wire theft also threatens the reliability of the electricity system that the North American public and businesses count on every day.  While power outages are inconvenient for families, they can also jeopardize critical infrastructure, disrupting vital services such as emergency care in hospitals.
The CEA – the voice of electricity in Canada – has release its policy paper on copper wire theft (SECOND EDITION RELEASED JANUARY 2015). The paper, Copper Theft from Canada’s Electricity Infrastructure: Dangerous, Expensive and a Threat to Reliability, highlights the serious impacts of copper theft and outlines four detailed recommendations to deter the theft of copper across the country.

Back in Sept. 15/2008 in an Intelligence Assessment prepared by the FBI Criminal Intelligence Section published Copper Thefts Threaten US Critical Infrastructure,

About copper wire theft

A rise in scrap metal prices is making copper attractive to thieves.

  • Electric power substations, utility poles and vacant homes and businesses are all targets for thieves.
  • Ground wires are routinely target by copper thieves.

Safety concern

Live energized Substations targeted by copper thieves are growing areas of concern, as high-voltage equipment should only be handled by trained professionals.

  • Thieves often cut holes in fencing to enter a substation. This creates a potential hazard for not only the public, but specifically small animals who already cause problems in many outage situations by entering the substations.
  • Electrical personnel who work in substations are a potential injury concern, as they could come into contact with ungrounded equipment.
  • When ground wires are removed, usually part of the wire is left hanging. High winds often blow wires around and cause damage to equipment and cause power outages.
  • Ultimately, the copper thieves are putting their own lives at risk.

 Tips to Help Stop Copper Wire Theft.

  • Common targets for copper wire theft are construction sites, farming equipment, and electric utility property. If you notice suspicious activity around one of these copper theft targets, notify authorities. Do not try to intervene yourself.
  • If you are responsible for a construction site or farm, properly secure your property. If you have large quantities of copper, you may consider a tracking device that can help locate your copper if it is stolen.
  • Store tools and wire cutters in a secure location, and never leave them out while away.
  • Help spread the word about the dangers of copper theft.
  • If you notice anything unusual with electric facilities, such as an open substation gate, open equipment, hanging wire, etc. contact your electric utility immediately.
  • If you see anyone around electric substations or electric facilities other than utility personnel or contractors, call the police.