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Thieves target wind farms for high-cost copper cables

Chris Metinko, Inside Bay Area
There’s copper in them thar hills.

That’s what thieves know about the 50,000-acre Altamont Wind Resource Area, and the electricity-generating turbines found there.

Wind company operators, as well as the Alameda County Sheriff”s Office both say that within the past six months to a year, trespassing and burglaries have increased at the wind farms, with thieves cutting and stealing the copper electrical cables used to operate the 5,400 windmills east of Livermore.

“It’s getting pretty serious out there,” said Rick Koebbe, president of PowerWorks LLC, which operates about 920 windmills in the Altamont. “In the last year, it’s gotten pretty bad.”
(14 Nov 2006)

Australia: High-voltage copper theft strands commuters

Dan Harrison, The Age
Police have made five arrests over a series of thefts of copper from high-voltage overhead rail wires on Melbourne’s suburban train network.

The thefts caused major disruptions for morning commuters on the Epping and Hurstbridge lines.

Police today announced they had formed a task force to tackle what they say is a growing problem of scrap metal theft.
(22 Nov 2006)
Cable theft is a major problem in parts of Africa – is this a problem coming to the West? Copper price has risen 4 fold in as many years. More below…

South Africa: Copper theft causing chaos

Gill Gifford, IOL
South Africa’s building industry is booming – but so is the lucrative “organised crime” business of copper theft from construction sites.

While the small-scale theft of copper is commonplace, contractors say a “first” is the recent emergence of armed, organised syndicates who pull kilometres of copper cable, worth millions of rands, out of the ground and sell it.

In the past month a wave of armed robberies at various Gauteng construction sites – which police say was committed with help from industry insiders – has led to the loss of well over R1,4-million in copper products used in electrical installations.
(16 Nov 2006)

Copper thieves strip Italy in “red gold” rush

Ian Simpson, Reuters via
Copper thieves are stripping Italy in a “red gold” rush that has snarled train service, denuded tombs and caused at least one blackout as worldwide demand for the metal has sent prices soaring, officials say.

Thieves have torn copper facing from a city bridge, and toxic smoke from the clandestine burning of insulation off cables is filling the night sky of some Rome neighbourhoods.
(17 Nov 2006)

Canada: Despite the dangers wire theft continues

Despite a man being electrocuted while attempting to steal cable from the Gloucester substation six months ago, another thief has risked life and limb to take copper from the power station.
(18 Nov 2006)

UK: Theft causes widespread blackout

BBC News
Thousands of homes, shops and offices were left without power after thieves stole a copper earthing cable from an electricity sub-station.
(16 Nov 2006)

Micronesia: A new type of crime rises

Ferdie de la Torre, Saipan Tribune
“It is a huge, huge problem!”

This was how Department of Public Safety Commissioner Rebecca Warfield assessed the situation caused by these “new brand of criminals”-copper wire thieves-who have caused havoc on Saipan in the past few months.

“It’s horrible!” Commonwealth Utilities Corp. spokesperson Pamela Mathis said of the effect of the thieves’ actions, not only on CUC but also on the entire community.
(17 Nov 2006)