Metal Theft Remains Problem Despite Drop

Insurance claims for metal theft continue to fall, but the problem is far from over for electric cooperatives across Colorado and the country, a new report shows.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau said 28,040 claims were processed across the country from 2014 through 2016. That’s down 22 percent from the previous 2013 through 2015 report. However, that represents more than 28,000 times thieves stole copper and other metals from electric substations and power lines, as well as from water systems and other infrastructure.

Copper accounted for 98 percent of the metals reported stolen and, for the most part, copper prices fell over that time — meaning thieves got less for their efforts. Lower prices may be part of the reason for the drop in thefts.

According to Bloomberg, COMEX copper prices went from $3.69 per pound on January 4, 2013, to $2.50 per pound on December 30, 2016. However, prices were rising in 2017, and on November 24, 2017, copper closed at $3.19 a pound. For that reason, electric co-ops are vigilant as there may be a correlating rise in copper theft.

“Thieves have been willing to go to almost any length to obtain the metal,” noted the NICB report. Electrical substations are frequently targeted, and some thieves have been electrocuted trying to steal live electrical wiring. This is why co-ops want to warn everyone that this is not a good way to try to make an extra buck.