Thieves hitting power lines; stealing copper wires

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Over the past several months, some power lines have disappeared.  In addition to disturbing electricity, stealing the lines is very dangerous.  Those with Craighead Electric say a man was killed in a few years ago when he attempted to steal power lines and it could happen again very easily.

"They're removing copper from our structures. They're removing the wire from the poles," said Monty Williams with Craighead Electric.

Stealing the wires is very risky.

"The amount of voltage that is running through these power lines is around 7,600 volts," said Williams.  "This demonstration behind me is going to show what is going to happen if you come into contact with power lines."

Monty Williams with Craighead Electric said it's not the voltage that will kill you the amps will.

"You have a wire line lying around or on a pole or touching a pole or a guide wire you want to consider it's energized.  You don't want to touch that because you never know what is hot and what's not," said Williams.

The thefts are happening in parts of Lawrence, Greene and Craighead Counties.

"Some of it is just here and there they haven't really hit one specific area and just ripped everything off.  They've been kind of spotty here and there," said Williams.

Williams said the culprits are probably getting around $5,000 total for the 50 lines they've taken while the cost to repair those lines will run around $25,000.

When the linemen go out to replace the copper wire they're actually replacing that wire with aluminum because the price of aluminum is a lot less than the price of copper.  A bill passed back in 2009 made the theft and destruction of power lines a "class d" felony.

"We're really not for sure exactly where they're taking it but we're watching all of the scrap metal places recycling facilities to see if we can't locate where this wire is going," said Williams.

He said they want to catch the individuals before they cause more damage to the lines and before they get seriously hurt or killed.

"When we do catch these folks we're going to go as far as the extent of the law as we can go to put these folks behind bars," said Williams.

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