Increase In Copper Theft Could Raise NES Rates And Cost Lives

Increase In Copper Theft Could Raise NES Rates And Cost Lives

CREATED Jan 14, 2014

by Aundrea Cline-Thomas

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – NES is alerting customers about an increase in copper thefts.

"It takes a lot of guts to walk into an energized substation where the sign says high voltage, keep away," NES spokesperson Laurie Parker said.

Still it's not a deterrent to thieves who are going into NES substations looking for copper.

"Thieves are either cutting the fencing and getting in and getting away with spools of copper wire," Parker explained. "Or they're actually entering the substation equipment and cutting out wire which is very, very, very dangerous."

It's a crime that literally puts the thieves and NES technician's lives in jeopardy.

"Because if they go into a substation where they're not aware that there's live wire maybe exposed or ground wire isn't properly in place," Parker said about the danger it poses to NES staff, "they could be severely injured or even killed."

Thankfully no one has been injured.

Copper still commands nearly three dollars per pound at scrap yards. Hermitage Recycling has an entire system to track everything they take in. It helps them comply with state laws that are in place to minimize the sale of stolen items. 

Manager Damon Hassell said many other scrap dealers bypass the laws, making it much easier for thieves to sell the stolen copper.

"We lose a lot of business to other yards around here that buy without doing the stuff that they are supposed to do by state law," Hassell said, "and nobody does anything about it."

The next time NES customers open their electric bill, take a closer look. If costs continue to rise you'll know part of the reason why.

"It's overhead cost kind of like shoplifting at a store," Parker said. "They have to absorb that cost somehow, so ultimately I guess it would trickle down to the customer."

That's why in every bill this month NES is urging customers to report any information they may know about the thefts to police. The utility is also asking those that live near substations to keep any eye out and report any damage they notice or suspicious activity.

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