HARDEEVILLE, SC (WTOC) - Trying to crackdown on thieves, stealing copper in the Lowcountry. The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina Inc. are working together with state law enforcement officials to try to stop these copper thieves.
It's just a piece of metal to some but for thieves when they see this copper lining, they see an opportunity to make some quick cash
"They are stealing it from a number of places," said Palmetto Electric Spokesman Jimmy Baker. "At Palmetto Electric, our primary problem has been stealing copper grounds from poles. They are also stealing from compounds, where we are now and stealing rolls of copper. They are stealing copper from businesses and homes - primarily air conditioning compressors and any source they can find copper."
In 2011, these crimes cost Palmetto Electric Cooperative $20,000.
The thieves are said to be stripping utility poles. They use a truck, attach it to the copper and pull it off, which creates a very dangerous situation for utility workers.
Without the complete ground wire in place, line crews lack a safety ground to tie into when working on the poles. Also, if a storm or car wreck brings down a pole, the live wires may cause voltage fluctuations that damage home electronics.
Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina Inc. officials are teaming up with CrimeStoppers to raise public awareness about the high financial costs and serious dangers associated with copper theft.
"CrimeStoppers has a tremendous network to get the message out," Baker said. "They are utilizing billboards. There are going to be some print add. Some customer awareness to get message out to help us look for these copper thieves."
Hoping to prevent a crime that is not only costly but also puts the lives of thieves, utility workers and homeowners at risk.
Those who report copper thefts could get up to a $6,000 reward.