Whatcom County thieves hoping to exchange metals for money have taken on a risky approach to finding more material: They're cutting into live power lines.
It appears that thieves are using lift equipment or bucket trucks to access live power lines and are cutting sections of the lines to obtain the valuable metals they contain, according to the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office.
Puget Sound Energy alerted the sheriff's office to the thefts, which have cropped up the past couple months in western Whatcom County.
Thefts of copper, wiring and scrap metal have been common in recent years, because thieves can turn the materials in for money at metal recyclers. Targets have included bronze plaques, bronze memorial vases from a local cemetery, and catalytic converters, which contain copper.
Cutting live lines from power poles, though, is a new and dangerous trend, according to the sheriff's office. Aside from the risk of electrocution for the thief, it also poses a risk of fire, power outages and short circuits if the cut lines are left dangling.
So far, about 100 sections, or spans, of line have been stolen from areas throughout Whatcom County, with large concentrations taken along Mountain View Road, Timon Road, Valley View Road and Ham Road. A few of those thefts resulted in power outages.
The thefts have cost PSE an estimated $100,000.
The sheriff's office is working with PSE on how to evaluate the extent of the problem and figure out how best to address it.
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