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SDG&E; Offers Reward in Thefts From Substations

TIMES STAFF WRITER

San Diego Gas & Electric is offering a $12,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the thief who has vandalized five electric substations to steal copper grounding wire, the utility announced Thursday.

In the past two weeks, the thief has sabotaged four of the company’s 180 substations, said spokesman Rick Griffin. The stations targeted are the Kettner and Palm substation, the Rose Canyon substation on two occasions, and the Torrey Pines and Del Mar substations.

Griffin said profit does not appear to be the motive because copper wire is selling for only 75 to 80 cents a pound for scrap.

The thief could be a disgruntled employee among the company’s 4,200 employees or a former employee, since the culprit seems to have specialized knowledge, Griffin said. To get to the copper grounding wires, the thief has to climb on top of the transformers, risking being electrocuted with 69,000 volts, he said.

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“We’re concerned about the person killing or injuring himself, and we’re concerned about SDG&E; employees being injured,” Griffin said.

Without the grounding wires, some equipment at the substations could carry dangerously unstable voltages, said Larry Savoy, the company’s security manager. The unstable voltages could cause serious injury or death to substation workers as well as disrupt service and cause voltages to fluctuate at homes and businesses served by the substations, he said.

Several of the break-ins have occurred during the day, prompting the company to ask the public’s help in apprehending the thief, Savoy said.

“We’re asking for the public to be on the lookout and call police if they notice anything that looks suspicious, like someone cutting through chain-link fences or a gate lock with large metal slicers,” he said. Savoy urged the public to get a license plate number but not attempt to confront the thief.

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Griffin said SDG&E; does not know if the rash of burglaries is connected to the string of more than 20 similar burglaries last year.

Anyone with information about the substation break-ins can call SDG&E; at 239-SDGE or Crime Stoppers at 235-TIPS.


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