Utility warns of copper thieves

GLENDALE— Utility and police officials advised residents Monday to watch for people trying to steal copper wire from utility poles, following a similar incident this weekend.

A resident called Glendale Water & Power on Sunday to report a man who had climbed up a power pole in an alley on Irving Street and Kenneth Avenue, said Atineh Haroutunian, the utility’s spokeswoman.

By the time utility officials and Glendale police arrived, the man had fled, she said. Officials believe the man was trying to steal copper wire, which thieves often exchange for cash at scrap yards.

The man had cut into copper wire that ran into the ground, but didn’t damage any wiring that provided service to residents, said Pat Riley, electrical superintendent for the utility.

“It’s brazen and extremely dangerous,” he said.

Climbing up a power pole could result in electrocution, Riley said.

A teen was electrocuted to death more than 20 years ago when he climbed a power pole in Glendale to steal a glass insulator cap, he said.

Power poles are high voltage and should be handled with care by professionals, Riley said.

The cost of Sunday’s theft attempt was minimal, he added.

But copper wire thefts in the past have resulted in the loss of thousands of dollars, such as a burglary of several cases of wiring at a Glendale Water & Power facility in La Crescenta three years ago, he said.

Riley, who has worked for the utility for 32 years, has seen a surge in copper wire thefts in the last two years.

The thefts were rare and almost unheard of in the past, he said.

The value of copper has increased in recent years, which Riley said has caused the jump in thefts.

“It’s not worth the risk for the value of copper,” he said.

Fewer copper wire thefts have happened this year than in the past, Glendale Police Sgt. Vahak Mardikian said.

Since police arrested a couple of copper wire thieves, Mardikian said the crime has decreased.

“We have had a complete drop,” he said.

New rules and regulations for recycling yards that require sellers to show proper identification have also attributed to the drop-off, Mardikian said.

To report any suspicious activity, call Glendale Police Department’s anonymous tip line at (818) 507-STOP or Mardikian in the Burglary Unit at (818) 547-3127.

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