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#67314 - 07/02/06 09:53 AM Wire / copper theft
jraef Offline

Registered: 07/21/04
Posts: 90
Loc: San francisco, CA, USA
Are you seeing as drastic of an increase in wire / conductor theft as I am? We've had small thefts going on for a while now, but I have seen the boldness and brazeness get turned up a notch recently. A customer of mine had a control van at a rock quarry stripped of eveything conductor related, even the MCC bus bars and control wires! What are people doing as security measures? We have taken to bringing all the cable reels inside of locked buildings, but this is proving to be a pain because of having to get a forklift assigned at the end of the work day etc. We've been thinking of renting a storage container for that purpose but I'm not convinced that those things are all that secure and we would still need to get the cable in and out every day.

Work Gear for Electricians and the Trades

Work Gear for Electricians and the Trades
Work Gear for Electricians and the Trades
Arc Flash Clothing, Gloves, KneePads, Tool Belts, Pouches, Tool Carriers, etc. etc....

#67315 - 07/02/06 10:31 AM Re: Wire / copper theft
renosteinke Offline
Cat Servant

Registered: 01/22/05
Posts: 5305
Loc: Blue Collar Country
Welcome to the "high cost of crime." Now you can see how you lose money even when nothng is stolen.

While copper prices may be a factor, the nature of these crimes suggest that trades people are involved. On a small scale, such crime has a word for it: Meth. On a larger scale, we have seen organised gangs, equiped with heavy equipment, strip job sites on weekends.

Ultimately, the solution goes beyond buying better locks.

#67316 - 07/02/06 10:32 AM Re: Wire / copper theft
togol Offline

Registered: 09/15/05
Posts: 426
Loc: NW In. USA
I strive to not have big wire on the job unless there is plant or site security, even before stratospheric prices people would steal the stuff. ( gone are the days of running a chain thru the reels )
I order wire for a day, ........ and have the crew(s) pull it all, ..there were times when we would have to pull a weekend and sometimes we finished early, sometimes not.....or the shop would to store it .
The hard part was trying to figure out how much could be setup & pulled, without wearing people out and pissin off the shopman

#67317 - 07/02/06 04:36 PM Re: Wire / copper theft
frenchelectrican Offline


Registered: 02/06/03
Posts: 938
Loc: Wi/ Paris France { France for ...
even i did read the recent newspaper talk about stolen copper tubing [ for plummers ] from the new home construction as well and the cost of copper kinda stay steady for last few days so,,

the theives getting more bolder and newspaper did mention someone did stole electrical wire from substation and got electoued from it.

just a matter of time some one will be more bold to steal copper materals not only related to electrical or plumming and what more some other stuff used copper will be swiped out i did heard one homeowner did advirt [ stop ] the theif try to steal copper roofing sheets now that is pretty big price ticket there

Merci , Marc
Pas de problme,il marche n'est-ce pas?"(No problem, it works doesn't it?)

#67318 - 07/03/06 10:46 AM Re: Wire / copper theft
KCstudent Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/10/06
Posts: 4
Loc: Kansas City, Missouri, USA
We've heard of a rise in copper theft in the Kansas City area, too; mainly from our suppliers who have told us stories of HVAC pipes being stolen from churches/schools, as well as conductor theft from new construction and untenanted buildings.

About 2 1/2 weeks ago, we came to work and found that about half our plant was dead, and the other half was flaky, power-wise. Working my way backwards from the farthest dead subpanel, I eventually got to the service entrance for our bus bars to find that we were missing a phase at the switchgear feed (comes down the bus bars from the roof). I went onto the roof to see if a tree branch had taken out a phase and found that we were missing four of six 500MCM feeders!

For that particular service entrance (we actually have three total SEs), there is about a 70' run of six (3-ph, parallel) 500MCM conductors to the bus entrance. Someone had cut out four of the six (live conductors, 240v 800A service!) overnight and made off with them - about 240' was missing, overall.

Our story has a happy ending, however: While I was combing over the area, trying to figure out how someone got out with all that wire (there's only about a 6' wide track behind the building, with a steep earthen slope on one side and our building on the other), I found a nylon pouch containing a pair of lineman's gauntlets. Said gloves had someone's name in them (first and last!) in permanent marker. The police looked up the name on the gloves, went to the person's house, and were told, "oh, I loaned those gloves to so-and-so about a week ago". When the police got to so-and-so's house, there was so-and-so's girlfriend on the front porch, shucking the insulation off of our conductors.

Amazing confluence of boldness and stupidity in this story, no?

We got our copper back, so-and-so and his girlfriend are in jail, and we're back in business. Upon close inspection of the stolen copper and the ends that were left, it seems that so-and-so used a pair of bolt cutters to clip the wires...and we're out about $15k in lost production, EC/PoCo charges, and new runs of copper (at about $8.50US/ft).

Sorry to be so long-winded. I'll try to do better in the future (long time lurker, but this is my first post). I'll see if I can upload some pictures of the missing runs of conductor, too, if there's any interest.

#67319 - 07/03/06 04:01 PM Re: Wire / copper theft
GA76JW Offline

Registered: 03/20/04
Posts: 195
Loc: Suwanee, GA USA
First off, welcome to the boards KCstudent. These guys really don't mind lurkers. I find I learn more by listening anyways.

Secondly this site is very picture friendly. The more the better.

Welcome again.
"If common sense was common, everyone would have it"-not sure, someone here

#67320 - 07/03/06 04:58 PM Re: Wire / copper theft
gfretwell Offline


Registered: 07/20/04
Posts: 9023
Loc: Estero,Fl,usa
I don't understand why the penalty for stealing isn't more severe. If "So and so" doesn't have a dope plant in his house he will be out of jail by morning and end up with some slap on the wrist sentence.
It's funny that we don't have a problem with putting drug offenders in jail for decades because theuy might steal to support their habit but stealing itself is a traffic ticket.
Greg Fretwell

#67321 - 08/30/06 07:39 AM Re: Wire / copper theft
Webmaster Offline


Registered: 10/07/00
Posts: 3142
Loc: NY, USA
(submitted by KCstudent)

Pole end of stolen conductors:

Bus entrance end of stolen conductors:

Picture of the whole run:

#67322 - 08/30/06 12:36 PM Re: Wire / copper theft

Registered: 12/08/05
Posts: 862
Loc: Titirangi, Akld, New Zealand
Good piece of detective work there KCstudent.

It always pays to have a good look around to look for evidence and in your case a name printed on a lost glove bag.

Pitty there wasn't a fried blown up criminal there, and one less to worry about on this planet.

Rule here applies: No Brains, No Pains.
although enough to think of LV gloves

Thanks for sharing the photo's with us.
The product of rotation, excitation and flux produces electricty.

#67323 - 08/31/06 04:07 AM Re: Wire / copper theft
Tom Offline

Registered: 01/01/01
Posts: 1069
Loc: Shinnston, WV USA
Here in the Mountain State, there have been two fatalities this year involving copper thieves. So far, none of the electricians I've mentioned this to have had any sympathy for these would be thieves.
Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.

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