WG&L fights back against copper crooks - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

WG&L fights back against copper crooks

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By Jim Wallace - bio | email

June 20, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Thieves are stealing copper wiring off power poles across the city, endangering not only the thieves, but also your home and electrical system.

Water Gas and Light crews repair another stolen copper ground wire off a pole on Front Street. The theft of the thin piece of wire that runs up every electrical pole is increasing.

"It's city wide. Everywhere we go, every alley we go up and down," Light Department Director Jimmy Norman said.

WG&L officials say thieves are using axes or wire cutters to cut off several feet of the ground to sell to salvage yards, but officials warn that could have deadly consequences for the thief.

Professionals wear thick rubber protective gloves to touch it. If disconnected from the system neutral, that thin wire could be charged with more than 7,200 volts of electricity. It's also vital to protect your electric system from lightning strikes. 

 "This is designed to take that lightning strike and absorb it and dissipate it into the ground. When that wire is cut, the lightning has nowhere to go. So it goes through our equipment and could go into customer's businesses or houses," Norman said.

WG&L is battling the thefts, attaching the wires more securely. WG&L Assistant General Manager of Operations Keith Goodin said "We're putting more staples in the ground wire, which makes it much more difficult to just snip it and strip it off the pole. They've got to pull staples out and snip it several times."

With the copper wire thefts increasing, it's costing WG&L more time and manpower to repair, and in the long run you the power customer has to pay for it with higher electric bills. So officials are asking your help stopping the copper thefts. 

"If they see anybody doing anything to our poles who is not a Water Gas and Light employee in uniform, we'd appreciate it if they would call our 24 hour number," Norman said.

"We do intend to prosecute," said Goodin. "And have prosecuted some thieves already."

And copper wire thefts off utility poles is a felony theft of government property. WG&L officials ask your help in preventing the theft of this innocent looking thin wire, that is vital to protecting your electric system.

If you see anyone stealing wire off utility poles, report it to Water Gas and Light at 229-883-8330 or call the police.

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