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Copper theft remains issue for area utility companies

Last Modified: Tuesday, July 09, 2013 5:01 PM

By Johnathan Manning / American Press

Copper theft continues to be an issue for local utility companies.

In two recent theft cases, someone climbed utility poles in Reeves and Dry Creek to steal copper, Kevin Turner, general manager of Beauregard Electric Co-Op, told board members at their July 2 meeting.

The manner in which the theft occurred was particularly concerning, he said.

“Now we have somebody out there who’s climbing,” Turner said. “Everybody knows how dangerous it is to work something hot off the pole. Either he has some hot cutters, knows what he’s doing or has got some pruners and doesn’t know what he’s doing and is going to get killed.”

He said the thefts were similar to copper thefts that occurred more than a year ago in the Kinder, Dry Creek and Sugartown areas.

“It’s very dangerous cutting something hot off a pole,” Turner said. “We do not work anything hot off the pole, we work it out of the bucket. It’s very dangerous, it they’re using some pruners or something they’re going to end up getting killed.”

BECi suffered $219,000 in copper theft in 2012 and $149,000 in 2011, Kay Fox, vice president of marketing and member services, said.

Fox said it is a nationwide problem for utility companies “because of the risk to the linemen, public and thieves themselves.”

Chip Arnould, Entergy spokesman, said he could not provide dollar amounts for copper thefts, but that it was an issue Entergy is also forced to deal with.

“Copper theft is illegal and we work with local authorities to prosecute,” Arnould said. “Not only is it illegal, but it also poses a danger to our customers and to our employees.”

The value of copper has risen significantly in recent years; analysts say growing global demand has driven up prices.

While theft of copper is a crime, under Louisiana law so is theft of utility property, punishable by between two to 10 years in prison or a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

Copper theft over $1,000 carries a punishment of between five and 10 years in prison or a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

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