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Copper theft info could net reward

Feb. 10, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Anyone with information about the theft of several thousand feet of copper wire could receive several thousand dollars for sharing it as part of a program offered by American Electric Power.

The program, which offers up to $5,000 in reward money for information leading to an arrest and prosecution in a case, has been offered for quite a while, said Phil Moye, spokesman for AEP's West Virginia-based subsidiary, Appalachian Power.

The most recent and noticeable copper theft took place just before 3:30 a.m. Friday along the left fork of Nine Mile Road in Lesage, where several homes experienced a power surge that damaged thousands of dollars worth of appliances and electronics after someone cut a ground wire to a transformer while stealing thousands of feet of wire.

"The outage in Lesage was just terrible for our customers," said Moye. "A lot of our facilities were damaged in that incident, and certainly a lot of customers experienced damage to their own homes because of copper theft."

Moye said the reward program was started as a way to encourage people who have information about copper thefts to report it to the power company or to the local law enforcement agencies which investigate these incidents.

He said the amount of money an informant receives varies based on the quality of information they provide and whether or not a person ultimately is convicted of the copper theft. Of course, in order to receive the reward, the person sharing the information would have to share their identity.

"To us, it's just a matter of someone who happens to know or has seen something that can help us get the case prosecuted by sharing that information," he said.

The goal of eliminating, or at least limiting, copper theft is beneficial to the power company and its customers, Moye said, but there are other concerns that may lead someone to report copper theft activity.

"Copper theft is an extremely dangerous activity," he said. "The people involved in the Lesage theft easily could have been burned or even died from it. People die while doing it. In some cases, having a family member or loved one report that information can be the best thing for the copper thief because it potentially could save their lives."

Anyone with information on any copper theft activity can report it by contacting the AEP tip line by calling 866-747-5845 or by contacting local law enforcement.

Follow Lacie Pierson via Twitter @LaciePiersonHD.

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