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Two arrested in theft of copper at Buckeye Rural Electric

GALLIA COUNTY — What once was a nuisance is quickly becoming an epidemic, according to area law enforcement agencies and businesses.

Steve Oden, a spokesman for Buckeye Rural Electric Cooperative said, “It’s been a real problem in Gallia, Lawrence and Meigs counties, probably since June. But this is the first time they’ve caught somebody red-handed, I mean busted them in the act,” he said. “Copper thefts are epidemic right now,”

He referred to the arrest of two people in Gallia County Monday evening arrested in connection with the attempted theft of an estimated $1,300 in copper from BREC’s Rodney substation.

“They had it loaded in the back of a pickup truck and were actually standing there totaling their haul in a notebook,” Oden said.

Oden is asking rural residents to be the eyes and ears of the utility cooperative, paying close attention to activity around utility poles, substations and other BREC property. The cooperative offers a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of people accused of stealing or damaging company property.

“They’re getting it off poles, getting it out of substations. This is costing everyone who is a rural electric cooperative member,” he said. “If they come around a curve and see a truck pulled up next to a pole and they’ve got a chainsaw or bolt cutters, you know they aren’t bird-watching,” Oden pointed out. “If people in rural areas smell burning rubber and see a fire going behind a house there is a possibility someone could be burning insulation to get the copper underneath.”

The accounts of recent thefts in the three-county region are numerous and Oden said thieves are resorting to brazen acts to get their hands on copper, which they can then sell for scrap at a substantial price per pound these days.

“One of these days there will be a major power outage because someone stole copper,” Oden said.

He has a point. Recently thieves tried to steal copper from the grounding grid underneath a power substation owned by the Guernsey-Muskingum Electric Cooperative. The culprits damaged the substation in the process.

“The substation began to malfunction and the voltage was so great the concrete was smoking,” Oden said.