Georgia Transmission issues first reward for information leading to copper theft conviction

Source: Georgia Transmission

Georgia Transmission Corporation (GTC) recently paid its first $3,000 reward to citizens whose report led to the conviction of copper thieves in Soperton, Ga. Utilities like GTC, which builds and maintains the high-voltage power infrastructure on behalf of 39 of the state's electric membership cooperatives (EMCs), have recently been the target of metals thefts, prompting the company to increase its reward for information from $500 to $3,000.

"We wanted to raise public awareness of the dangers of copper theft and also provide a greater incentive to encourage the public to report suspicious activity or actual crimes," said Jerry Donovan, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. "In this case, people were being good citizens and good neighbors, and we're pleased to be able to reward their willingness to report what they saw."

After seeing two individuals taking copper ground wire from distribution poles maintained by Altamaha EMC near their home, a couple contacted the local sheriff's office. An arrest was made based on the information provided.

"These individuals witnessed what was happening and recognized that it was both dangerous and illegal," said Lee Swan , security consultant for Georgia Transmission. "The fact that they went the extra mile to contact law enforcement is to be commended."

Stealing the copper grounds inside a substation or from a power line is a major safety issue to utility personnel and the public.  The grounds are installed to ensure that all the equipment inside a substation is at ground potential.  Removing the grounds from a substation could lead to an injury or fatality from electrocution and has resulted in outages.

Prior to this year, utilities offered a $500 reward for information regarding copper thefts. However, as the rising cost of copper made the material more attractive, incidents increased. GTC has experienced more than 125 copper theft incidents this year, compared to 70 in 2010. Experts estimate these thefts cost the utility $4,000-$6,000 each, bringing the total damages to in excess of $600,000 . In addition to the cost of damages, copper thefts pose a threat to electric reliability and the safety of electric facilities.

"It's critical to the utilities and law enforcement officials to have citizens on the lookout for suspicious activity," said Swan. "We are very pleased these folks took action when they witnessed a crime."

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