The Ottumwa Courier

Wapello County

March 27, 2013

Law enforcement warn of the dangers of copper theft

BLOOMFIELD — We tell kids to stay away from power lines. Now somebody better warn the thieves.

In a single year, more than two dozen people were killed in the United States trying to steal the wires off of live electrical poles. Affecting far more people, however, are the outages and increased cost of electric bills.

According to a press release from Southern Iowa Electric Cooperative, copper theft and the damage left behind to the poles and other equipment is an ongoing problem.

Davis County Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Josh O’Dell said he’s been told of interruptions to electrical service to an area because someone stole something metallic from a utility pole.

“It would cause a utility interruption, which, I believe is either a Class C or D felony offense,” O’Dell said. “It’s a very serious problem.”

Not just because of utilities, though that’s a big part of the problem. The thieves will steal the copper pipes from a vacant home. In one instance in Davis County, a pipe that went from a full propane tank into a home was stolen — while the tank was turned on.

Wapello County Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Don Phillips  said the same thing happened in rural Wapello County. There was no explosion or fire in either case, but it’s dangerous,.

“Because of metal prices, we’ve had a lot of scrap metal thefts,” said Phillips. “People are stealing the wires off the grain bins. In the fall, farmers go out and can’t dry or move the grain. You’d be lucky to get a pound of copper out of a grain bin. But the farmer has to pay hundreds to get it fixed.”

Depending on the condition of the metal, “clean copper” can bring in around $3 a pound, according to one scrap dealer.

O’Dell said in their effort to get a few bucks in scrap metal, thieves do thousands of dollars in damage.

Phillips said it seems like for each dollar the thieves get, homeowners may end up having to pay $100.

Law enforcement officials said that the copper is just pennies when compared to the cost to homeowners or utility companies — and co-op utility customers who help pay for equipment.

“Not only are the thieves risking their life, but the general public and utility workers can be killed when they unknowingly come into contact with damaged equipment resulting from the theft,” according to the Southern Iowa Electric Cooperative

In some counties, like those with rural electric cooperatives, those turning in thieves who damage utilities can get up to $2,000 in reward money.

Because the thefts cause so much damage, including potential outages that can damage commerce or interrupt everyday life, authorities take scrap metal theft seriously, the deputies said.

“We just arrested a guy here a couple days ago,” said Phillips, “who stole an old vehicle out of a farmer’s field and sold it to a scrap dealer. Trespassing and [auto theft].”  

That may help with the other problem.

“We were having an issue at one point,” said O’Dell. “Boxes taken off utility poles, wires cut and stolen.”

Then, a few weeks ago, they arrested a ring of burglars for stealing and selling stolen scrap metal. The thieves had nothing from utility poles. But suddenly, O’Dell said, the number of rural utility power cable thefts “sharply decreased.”

“It’s not worth getting electrocuted for a few dollars, not to mention the damage done,” said Phillips. “For the amount of work they’re doing, to me, it seems like it’d be easier to get a job.”

Theft hotline

The toll-free Southern Iowa Electric Cooperative Theft Reward hotline number is 855-267-7379.

1
Text Only
Wapello County
  • 0617 OTT Wapello Co Fair color photo -L -M Come one, come all to the Wapello County Fair

    ELDON — The Wapello County Fair is just around the corner, kicking off with entries being welcomed at Wapello Hall and the Iowa Agricultural Hall from 5-7 p.m. Wednesday. On Thursday, entries for competition will be received from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at

    June 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Siegel, Rubel face off in forum OTTUMWA — For Steve Siegel, a political campaign is nothing new. For Tom Rubel, being the candidate is a first. Now they want the same job. Siegel and Rubel are seeking the Democratic nomination for SD 41, the Iowa Senate district which includes Ottu

    May 29, 2014

  • 0530 OTT Oak tatters picture color Oak leaves left in tatters

    OTTUMWA — Trees throughout Iowa have been terrorized by the likes of Emerald Ash Borer and other dangers in the past months and now oak trees throughout Iowa are in a little bit of more trouble because of a disease called oak tatters. Thankfully, tho

    May 29, 2014 2 Photos

  • Help fight hunger OTTUMWA — The groups began with a question: How to better help Wapello County residents who don't have enough decent food. Next week, they'll decide if they've found any answers. The food security project, Growing Wapello Together, had small groups m

    May 28, 2014

  • Attempted murder trial set for July KEOSAUQUA — The Van Buren County man accused of attempted murder could head to trial in a remarkably short time. Dimitrious Royal has a trial date of July 15. If that date is when the trial actually begins, it would take place just more than 11 weeks

    May 28, 2014

  • Agency aces assessment OTTUMWA — A local agency had a lot riding on the outcome of an independent review. They nailed it. "The credential we just received was to show we are a quality [organization]," said Bryan Dunn, executive director of Sieda Community Action. "It's som

    May 27, 2014

  • County backs bike rides OTTUMWA — Bike rides in Wapello County just received a personal push of goodwill from Wapello County Board of Supervisors. Tuesday, supervisors signed a resolution of support for three area bike rides to be conducted in June. The rides include the H

    May 27, 2014

  • 0527 OTT EMS week color photo -L -M ORHC celebrates EMS Week OTTUMWA — During National EMS week, May 18-24, Ottumwa Regional Health Center (ORHC) celebrated its staff, the community EMS providers and the importance of being prepared in emergency situations through education. The ambulance service at ORHC, also

    May 26, 2014 2 Photos

  • Moving into the future OTTUMWA — Wapello County Supervisor Greg Kenning joked after the board approved upgrading the county’s servers Tuesday. “You can put away your quills.” Jokes asides, Wapello County will now have more opportunity to maximize its server resources. The

    May 20, 2014

  • 0520 OTT mushroom provided -T -M Hidden treasure

    OTTUMWA — Yes, it's kind of like winning the lottery. A mushroom hunter and her family cheerfully acknowledged that feeling after stopping by the Ottumwa Courier on Monday. In one lucky search, they'd found hundreds of morels totaling 10 pounds. As u

    May 19, 2014 1 Photo

Obituaries
Record
Facebook
AP National