CRAIGHEAD COUNTY, AR (KAIT) – The company that provides power to many throughout Region 8 has lately become a primary target for copper thieves.
Investigator Justin Rolland with the Craighead County Sheriff's Department explained to Region 8 News that the thieves have shown a pattern of how they work. Every now and then there is a spike in the number of copper related crimes and then, just like that, there is a sudden drop off.
Charlie Layne with the Craighead Electric Cooperative Corporation the company has suffered about $200,000 worth of damage due to copper theft's this year.
"We're behind. It's not only hurting us financially but physically, because we don't have the man power to put it back up", he says.
Justin Rolland says that the theft has gotten worse in the past few months. But although stealing copper from these poles is a potentially deadly crime, thieves are still taking the risk.
"It's Russian roulette. I don't think it's a matter of if, but when", Rolland says.
Rolland says the criminals get more daring by the minute and the crimes have localized between highway 49 north of Brookland all the way to the St. Francis River.
"[They are] targeting the actual highline wires. They are actually taking the neutral copper wire from the poles… the person's who's doing this knows what they're doing. They are familiar with how electricity works and how the power lines are laid out", Rolland says.
Layne tells us that the neutral wire is really important. He says that it is used to monitor power outages and track meters, keeping their workers from having to check on foot. That's not the only way the thefts are affecting the company, when thieves steal it, it takes away the line of protection for their systems and the consumers.
"The lightning has no place to go because they're stealing the neutral wire away for protecting the consumers and what's in their house", Layne says.
Layne says that to him it is more important for investigators to find out who's buying the stolen copper wire than to catch the thieves. He says that if they don't find the buyers the copper theft probably will never go away.
If you have any information on these crimes or happen to see anything suspicious in your area, contact Justin Rolland with the Craighead County Sheriff's Department at (870) 933-4551.