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Copper theft leaves thousands in Sandy without power

Posted at 9:14 PM, Dec 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-15 23:14:25-05

SANDY, Utah — Thousands of Rocky Mountain Power customers living in Sandy were without power Thursday morning. When crews showed up on-scene to figure out the problem, they discovered the substation had been broken into.

The power company said the theft of copper wire caused the outage.

“It’s a way to get quick cash,” said Jona Whitesides, spokesperson for the power company. “We have kind of that urgency anytime there’s a power outage to identify it, dispatch the crews and resources, and get that restored as quickly as possible.”

Whitesides said the crime occurred at their substation in Sandy near 9400 South and Monroe. The outage affected over 3,500 customers. Power was interrupted around 6 a.m. and restored by 7:30 a.m.

In a statement, Curt Mansfield, senior vice president of power delivery, said the damage is expensive to repair.

Crews had to cut the power so they could switch circuits.

“We practically did that so that we could get them over and make sure they were on a stable path of power and then be able to assess and fix,” said Whitesides.

According to Sandy Police, most of the city’s copper wire crimes occur on construction and building sites. Officers said they saw an uptick around four years ago but that’s died down.

“The real reason why they go and steal these things is to re-sell it,” said Whitesides. “These metals can be resold, whether it's at a recycling place and even in ways that might be legal.”

Company personnel inspected other substations and discovered the damage at other locations.

Whitesides said the price of wire isn’t worth the risk of arrest or electrocution.

“That poses a danger to anybody whose around there who isn’t trained to be around that high voltage,” he said.

Copper wire theft was also a big issue for the Utah Department of Transportation about eight years ago. Thieves would steal the wire along I-15 near North Salt Lake. A spokesperson tells FOX 13 News that the highway lights were out for quite a while so crews could make repairs.