The Times West Virginian

January 18, 2014

Law has reduced theft of copper

Industry officials say more could be done

By Kristen Talerico
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — Senate Bill 528, which amends the state code on scrap metal purchasing and sale, has helped decrease the amount of copper thefts in the area.

But industry officials say more could be done.

“There has been somewhat of a decrease, but it could still be stronger,” said Bryan Stover, corporate security at Frontier Communications.

He said the electric companies and railroads are still suffering, but not as significantly as they were in 2010 and 2011.

“The bill passed has helped to reduce it,” Stover said.

He added that people are taking copper to recycle yards and getting anywhere from $2.50 to $3 a pound, and technically, recycling centers are not allowed to accept any kind of utility-type copper or telecom cable.

“Some places are still accepting this because there is a failure to recognize what it is,” Stover said.

Stover said a lot of times, people bring in multiple items of metal that might seem like a pile of junk, and workers do not search through it.

Awareness and coordinating and working with law enforcement on suspicious activity is one way to help the instances of copper theft decrease, Stover said.

“Try and have a good relationship with recyclers, and contact the law enforcement whenever there is a problem,” he said.

Vacant buildings are the worst, he said, and as long as copper prices are at a premium, theft will continue to happen.

Copper theft affects more people than many think, Stover said.

“The people stealing it think it is just a copper crime, but in reality they are shutting off critical services to elderly people who might need to call an ambulance,” he said. “This could knock out service to hundreds and thousands of people.

“If electrical lines get cut in the middle of winter, this could result in a loss of power or heat,” Stover added.

Chief Deputy Ralph Wright of the Marion County Sheriff’s Department said reports of copper theft come and go, and really depend on the price of copper. He said the new law has somewhat decreased the amount of thefts.

“If they are going to steal it, they will steal it,” Wright added.

Wright said there is no general or targeted area for copper theft in Marion County, and he said it is not common for copper to be stolen from someone’s house.

Email Kristen Talerico at ktalerico@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @KTalericoTWV.