Whether you live in rural Southwest Florida surrounded by produce farms and cattle or in the suburbs of a larger city, copper theft is a crime running rampant throughout the state and country, affecting electric utilities throughout Florida. As copper prices have increased, so have copper thefts. The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) estimates that there are more than 50,000 copper thefts from electric utilities alone each year in the U.S. Not only is copper theft illegal, it poses serious public safety concerns, and could impact LCEC’s ability to provide affordable and reliable electricity.
Electric substations are dangerous and could be deadly for anyone who is not a trained LCEC employee. Someone unfamiliar with a functioning substation, full of energized electrical wires and electrically charged equipment, is vulnerable to making a fatal mistake. The ESFI estimates approximately 35 people die every year from attempted copper theft. Replacement wire and repairs affect the cost of doing business for utilities, and depending on the amount of damage, if any, that occurred to electric equipment during the theft, electric service may be disrupted.
In an effort to deter this crime, Florida’s electric cooperatives successfully promoted a copper theft bill in the Florida legislature that was signed into law in 2012, and amended in 2013 to make the penalties more severe. Today, copper thieves in Florida could receive a prison sentence of up to 30 years, as well as a fine up to $10,000. In addition, once inside the substation, copper thieves can be prosecuted for trespassing on private property, which is owned by the electric cooperative.
What can you, the Member consumer, do to help LCEC? If you notice or suspect any unusual activity at an LCEC substation, or any other electric facility, call your local law enforcement or 239-656-2300 to report a possible crime. By supporting Florida’s zero tolerance for copper theft, you will not only be helping your electric cooperative, but you may be saving a life.
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