The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

September 30, 2012

More than a nuisance


For The Register-Herald

—  

Copper thieves apparently are at it again.

Four Wyoming County residents were arrested Thursday afternoon in connection with a theft earlier last week that left about 1,300 people without phone service, according to Sheriff Randall Aliff. In addition to charges of theft and destruction of property, these suspects have found out that it is now a felony for interrupting communications.

But copper thieves haven’t just caused trouble for themselves; they’re putting lives in jeopardy by cutting cable.

Those without phone service would be unable to contact emergency services if needed. It could certainly be a life-or-death proposal.

Culprits have even taken their own lives mistakenly by being electrocuted, slicing into live wires during efforts to extract copper wiring.

We know our jails are crowded, but copper thieves need to spend time behind bars to show that the judicial system is not going to be soft on this kind of crime.

The market for scrap copper must be more scrutinized as well.

Thieves may think twice if their source of revenue has to provide precise information about his source of the copper.

In fact, the attempted sale to a scrap dealer actually led to the most recent arrests in Wyoming County.

As with many of society’s ills, we believe the underlying theme in these crimes is drug-related.

When someone decides to steal these days, it’s usually a desperate money grab to fund more drug buys.

When copper is stolen, it’s much more than a nuisance for law enforcement and the homes and businesses affected.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, it’s a major problem, costing taxpayers over $1 billion a year, not to mention increased insurance premiums or a jacked-up bill to a communications company trying to recoup its losses.

If you see suspicious activity around a construction site, vacant buildings or property, communication towers, mines or an electric substation, contact the police.

It’s time for us to do our part in helping crack down on copper thieves.