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Copper wire thefts at east county utility

EAST MANATEE — Peace River Electric Cooperative officials reported Monday three more incidents of copper wire being stolen from their utility poles.

According to a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office report, between 28,000-32,000 feet of copper wiring was stripped from the poles, but because the thieves took only the neutral wire there was no disruption of electrical service.

The value of the wire was $8,000-$9,000, according to the report.

The wiring was taken from three stations at Taylor Road and Singletary Road, 14805 Sugar Bowl Road, and 8900 Bunker Hill Road.

Nell Withers McCauley, spokeswoman for Peace River Electric, said the thievery was a very dangerous act.

“For a few dollars of copper they’re putting their life in danger,” McCauley said. “People don’t really know how dangerous it is.”

The price of copper closed Monday at $3.17 per pound on the New York Mercantile Exchange’s COMEX market, Reuters new service reported.

The high for the year is $3.18 per pound.

Copper prices are up from about $1.50 a pound last December, but below the 5-year high of over $4 in July 2008.

“Copper thefts have been up just recently,” said Dave Bristow, spokesman for the sheriff’s office. “Maybe in the last six weeks we’ve seen it more.”

Bristow said copper thefts were more broad-base a couple of years ago with copper plumbing and electrical wiring targeted when the price per pound was higher, but the recent thefts seem to be only targeting the utility companies.

About $2,000 in copper wiring was reported stolen Nov. 24 from Peace River Electric utility stations.

Someone earlier this month cut the wiring from 22 light poles on Pope Road, costing the utility company $6,600 in damage.

Also on Nov. 19, construction company officials reported three homes under construction in the Lakeside Preserve in Parrish had the copper tubing and wire cut out from the open wood framing. About $2,250 in copper was taken.

About 2,500 feet of copper wiring was reported stolen on Nov. 18 from power poles near State Road 64 and Kibler Ranch Road.

“Because of the isolated areas where these thefts are taking place, it is very difficult to catch the thieves in the act,” Bristow said. “That is why we are asking anyone who hears anything or sees someone with lots of copper to call the sheriff’s office.”

Anyone with information can contact the sheriff’s office at 747-3011 or remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at (866) 634-TIPS (8477).