Fri., January 7, 2011 2:10pm (EST)

High Reward For Copper Thieves
By Rickey Bevington
Updated: 3 years ago

ATLANTA  —  
Thieves strip the metal from high voltage transmission facilities.  They can make hundreds of dollars selling it to scrap metal yards. (photo courtesy Andrew Barclay)
Thieves strip the metal from high voltage transmission facilities. They can make hundreds of dollars selling it to scrap metal yards. (photo courtesy Andrew Barclay)
As the price of copper surges, so does the number of copper thefts from electricity transmission stations.

Power companies across the state are now offering hefty rewards for information about copper thieves.

$3,000 is now the going price in Georgia for information leading to the arrest and conviction of someone stealing copper.

Thieves strip the metal from high voltage transmission facilities. At a going price this week of more than $3 a pound they can make hundreds of dollars selling it to scrap metal yards.

David Van Winkle of the Georgia Transmission Corporation says every instance of theft costs his company $5,000, and utilities have to pass the cost on to power customers:

“Stealing the copper grounds inside a substation is a major safety issue. So we wanted to raise public awareness of the danger of copper theft and also encourage the public to report suspicious activity and the actual crimes.”

Van Winkle says the number of thefts from his company’s stations spiked from 15 in 2009 to 60 in 2010 when the price of copper jumped.

He says legitimate metal recyclers are often duped by people selling stolen metal:

"We are working with them and educating them on the type of copper that is used in our substations so they can report that kind of activity to local law enforcement.”

Three years ago, Georgia tightened laws to get felony convictions for metal thieves.