Georgia Power cracks down on copper theft
Rising prices for copper have led to increased thefts
from utilities, construction and industrial sites, creating
a serious problem throughout Georgia.
Georgia Power has been no exception. As the price of
copper goes up, Georgia Power has seen a steady correlated
increase in the number of thefts, attempted thefts and
break-ins at substations, from the poles themselves and
other property locations.
In the past two years the average price of a pound of
copper has gone up almost 200 percent. But from 2005
to 2007, the number of wire theft cases the company has
investigated has gone up more than 500 percent, while
losses have increased more than 600 percent.
“We actively investigate all thefts or attacks on our
property,” says Philip Peacock, investigations supervisor
for Georgia Power. “We work closely with local law enforcement
to identify and prosecute anyone who does something like
this. Arrests of individuals involved in these thefts
from Georgia Power have increased more than 900 percent.”
Not only is there a financial impact to the company,
there are significant safety implications as well. When
thieves target electric lines and equipment they put
themselves, utility employees and, potentially, residents
Many substations receive power at 500,000 volts and reduce
it down to about 11,000 volts, which is still a lethal
These thefts also threaten the operation of the electric
grid, which can cause widespread outages and endanger
employees working on lines.
The company has initiated a number of programs to tackle
the problem. Security has been increased at all company
locations. Peacock says, where possible, copper wire
in the system is being replaced with steel-clad wire,
which has little value in the scrap metal market.
In addition, the Georgia legislature passed a new law
in 2007 increasing the penalties for anyone who steals
or knowingly recycles stolen copper.