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Four agencies trace copper wire thefts

By Glenn Rea

The Cuero Record

Nighttime thefts of copper wire over the last four months has drawn investigators from three law enforcement agencies and staff of an electric cooperative. Total value of the wire and resulting damage is still being determined but it may top well over $20,000.

DeWitt County and Lavaca County Sheriff’s Departments, Texas Department of Public Safety and Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative have worked together to narrow their search for the culprits. According to DCSO Lt. Richard Ramirez this county has investigated eight copper wire thefts since late July and he estimates Lavaca County has had a similar number.

These types of thefts involve considerable more effort and planning than the usual complaints filed in rural areas of both counties. As Ramirez described, copper wire is used on utility poles as a ground wire. Utility poles are about 250 ft. apart and the copper wire is strung continuous connecting these poles. He said specialized tools are needed to cut the wire and remove it from the poles.

It then has to be collected and hauled to a scrap metal dealer to be sold. The copper is worth over $3 a pound. Some of the thefts have seen over 9,000 ft. of the wire taken in one night. He said about 9,000 ft. of copper wire could have a value of $2,300 when sold as scrap metal. Interviewing scrap metal dealers along the Gulf Coast has also been a part of the investigation.

Ramirez said rural residents in the eastern portion of DeWitt County assisted in the investigation by notifying GVEC and the sheriff’s office when they had power outages. Some of those outages, whether short or long, provided clues that assisted with the investigation. In some cases wildlife night cameras recorded the theft attempts. Lt. Ramirez said charges facing those involved in the thefts will also include the damages and repairs required by the utility company. He said the law enforcement agencies have suspects in the case and the investigation was continuing.

Pictured, portion of copper ground wire was found at one of the theft sites in rural DeWitt County shown here rolled up. At some locations 9,000 ft. of this wire was taken from utility polls during one night. 

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