Copper thieves are now cutting power lines in Letcher County and police and power company officials say it creates a life-threatening danger.
Letcher County Sheriff Danny Webb said thieves have been stealing neutral conductor and ground wires in Little Cowan, Thornton and other areas in the county.
“By doing so it creates a risk for people who walk near the poles in being electrocuted,” said Lt. Brian Damron of the sheriff’s department. “Electricity is trying to complete a circuit.”
Risk of injury or death also exists for the person who is cutting the wire and for power company employees who are repairing the lines.
“We train our employees to check every single thing,” said Ronn Robinson, Kentucky Power communications manager. “They could still be put in jeopardy. The public is in jeopardy.”
Robinson said a man was electrocuted a couple of years ago in Knott County while trying to cut power lines.
“People are stealing copper left and right and it is very life threatening,” said Robinson. “It’s reprehensible, all for a little bit of copper. It’s not justifiable.”
Damron said lines are being stolen to sell copper, and that money made from selling copper is used to buy drugs.
Webb warned that scrap metal dealers believed to be buying the stolen copper will be investigated.
“Somebody is buying this copper after someone steals it,” added Kentucky Power’s Robinson. “These people wouldn’t be stealing it if they weren’t getting money for it.”
Webb said representatives with Kentucky Power, a subsidiary of Columbus, Ohio-based American Electric Power, have records of power lines being cut as far back as November.
When lines are cut it can lead to power outages, which affect everything from traffic lights to those on oxygen, said Robinson. Not only do the copper thefts affect safety, they also comes with a price.
“The cost associated to that theft is eventually passed back onto the ratepayer,” said Robinson.
“If we catch you, we will prosecute,” he added. “We are working with the sheriff to combat copper thefts.”
Webb expects arrests to be made soon in connection to the most recent rash of copper theft cases. The sheriff alkso advises people to not walk near areas where wires have been cut.
“If you come upon any wires that have been cut, don’t go near the wires,” said Webb. “Call the sheriff ’s department.”
Anyone with information about people taking power lines are asked to call the sheriff ’s department at 633-2293 or send a message to the sheriff department’s Facebook page.
“Their actions of stealing this is putting people’s lives in danger,” said Webb. “We’re concerned more for the safety of the public and making sure they are aware this is going on.”