Telcoms and utilities count as the favorite targets of copper thieves

Aug 01, 2010 | 07:25 AM | Tatyana Shumsky

If you have ever been a victim of theft, you know it is not an easy place to be. Electric utilities and phone companies feel the same way.

Given the increasing frequency of copper thefts spurred by rising metal prices, electrical power and telecommunications companies are looking to law enforcement, security measures and substitution to curb costs and deter would-be thieves.

While all copper consumers are vulnerable to theft, none is quite as exposed as phone companies and electric utilities, whose vast infrastructures can be next to impossible to police. Copper thieves tend to target low-traffic areas and favor stealing water pipes from churches and foreclosed homes, cutting down phone and power lines, and stealing the thick, pure copper grounding rod from electrical substations.

"In many cases the copper thefts occur in very isolated areas where there's not a lot of traffic and the locations are hard to get to," said Lee Gierczynski, Verizon Communications Inc.'s media relations manager for western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. "They may cut down a section of cable between two telephone poles and it can take our crews between 24 and 48 hours to get new cable back in place."....

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