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Monday, December 19, 2011 - 1:45am

Utility Pays First Copper-Theft Reward

A Soperton couple has extra holiday cash after they turned in some copper thieves and netted a $3,000 reward from the Georgia Transmission Corp.

GTC, which supplies power to most of the state’s electric membership cooperatives, has seen nearly twice as many copper thefts this year as it did in 2010.

“The loss rate for us this year is the largest in the last four years that we have been tracking this type of theft,” said GTC investigator Lee Swann. “Currently, we are close to 130 incidents this year.”

Swann said each of those costs between $4,000 and $6,000 to repair.

“That’s not 130 people out here stealing copper,” Swann said. “What you have in many cases is you have groups of 1 to 5 people that are going out and they’re stealing copper.”

Thieves are targeting the copper ground wire at substations and on electricity distribution poles. Swann said that makes for a dangerous situation for utility workers and the public.

They sell it to metal recyclers, where it will fetch more than $3 a pound right now.

Statewide, power companies say they are losing millions every year from lost copper.

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