SOUTH BEND, Ind., Nov. 15, 2010 – The rising price of copper is a factor in the increased theft of wire and equipment on Indiana Michigan Power (I&M) utility poles, in cabinets and inside substations. Thieves steal the material for its scrap value, often without knowing if the equipment is energized or not. Tampering with electrical equipment can also alter the design of the distribution system and create conditions that are dangerous to the general public and I&M employees in addition to the thieves. Copper theft from equipment also can cause widespread power outages.
The general public can help ensure safety and the reliability of the electric distribution system by being aware of certain abnormal conditions that could be signs of a theft in progress:

  • Look for identification. Only employees of AEP, I&M or a contractor hired by I&M are authorized to work on utility poles. It is also common for telephone and cable equipment to exist on a utility pole. Personnel performing work on the electrical distribution system will be in clearly marked vehicles and should carry company identification.
  • Look for safety equipment. Employees working on electric utility equipment should be wearing personal protective equipment such as hard hats, safety glasses, and in most cases rubber gloves or sleeves. Line personnel rarely use ladders to gain access to electrical equipment on a utility pole. Bucket trucks, specialized insulated tools and spikes for climbing poles.
  • Look for missing, cut or hanging wires. Commonly thieves will cut grounding straps with an ax or saw and take sections or pull off as much as they can. Missing sections of wire or wire pulled away from a utility pole could indicate that a theft has taken place.
  • Look for wires sticking out of cabinets. Dented cabinets and cables sticking out of cabinets indicate the possibility of a theft. It also presents a potentially dangerous condition for the general public.
  • Look for holes or cuts in fences near substations. I&M substations are fenced with locked gates. Damaged fencing in the form of cuts or holes indicates illegal entry. Gates are locked even when I&M personnel are inside the station. If a gate is left open, it could indicate that the lock was cut.
  • Look for piles of earth near transformer cabinets that provide power to underground service or near utility poles. Some thieves may go to the effort of digging near cabinets or utility poles to get as much copper wire as possible. 
If you have questions about a condition on the electric distribution system, please contact I&M security at 1-866-747-5845 or call 9-1-1. Together we can work to address the theft of copper used in a community’s electric delivery system and help keep everyone safe.
Marta Elliott
Corporate Communications
Phone: (574) 236-4965

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This policy was last revised on December 13, 2017.

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