Statement issued Thursday:
FORT WAYNE, Ind., November 17, 2011 – Increasing instances of copper thefts have been taking place across the Indiana Michigan Power (I&M) service area as thieves try to capitalize on the rising price of copper. Thieves have been specifically targeting copper wire and equipment from areas ranging from utility poles to cabinets and substations.
This increasing trend is a problem for three primary reasons:
• Copper theft is illegal.
• Tampering with electrical equipment can change the design of the distribution system and pose a danger, not just to those trying to steal copper, but to I&M employees and to the public.
• Copper theft from equipment has the potential to affect reliability by causing extensive service interruptions.
At I&M, nothing is more important than public safety. That is why I&M encourages citizens to be vigilant and look for the signs of copper theft:
• Look for identification. Only employees of AEP, I&M or a contractor hired by I&M are authorized to work on utility poles. Personnel performing work on the electrical distribution system will be in clearly marked vehicles and should carry company identification.
• Look for safety equipment. Employees working on electric utility equipment should be wearing personal protective equipment such as hard hats, safety glasses, and in most cases rubber gloves or sleeves. Line personnel rarely use ladders to gain access to electrical equipment on a utility pole. Instead, they use bucket trucks, specialized insulated tools and spikes for climbing poles.
• Look for missing, cut or hanging wires. Missing sections of wire or wire pulled away from a utility pole could indicate that a theft has taken place.
• Look for wires sticking out of cabinets. Dented cabinets and cables sticking out of cabinets indicate the possibility of a theft and pose a hazard to the public.
• Look for holes or cuts in fences near substations. I&M substations are fenced with locked gates. Damaged fencing in the form of cuts or holes indicates illegal entry. Gates are locked even when I&M personnel are inside the station. If a gate is left open, it could indicate that the lock was cut.
• Look for piles of earth near transformer cabinets that provide power to underground service or near utility poles. Some thieves may go through the effort of digging near cabinets or utility poles to get as much copper wire as possible.
If you have concerns about a condition on the electric distribution system, please contact I&M security at 1-866-747-5845 or call 9-1-1. I&M appreciates your assistance in addressing the trend of copper theft in our areas so that our employees and the general public can remain safe each day.