Dangers of Copper Theft

McMinnville Water & Light (MW&L) is working to alert the public to a very disturbing trend – the theft of copper and other metal from the electric distribution system for its value as scrap metal.

Copper theft is illegal and extremely dangerous

Not only is stealing wire from the power system illegal, it can be a deadly decision. There have been a number of cases locally and nationally resulting in serious injury or death by electrocution while vandalizing electric substations. There can also be impacts to the reliability of electric services caused by surges, fires, explosions or outages. Furthermore, it jeopardizes the safety of the public and MW&L employees.

MW&L is requesting your assistance and offers the following tips to help prevent copper theft and safeguard against electrical dangers:

  • Never enter or touch equipment inside a substation; stay away from power lines and anything touching a power line.
  • If you notice anything unusual with electric substations or facilities, such as an open substation gate, open equipment cabinet, hanging wire, or persons other than utility employees or contractors near the facilities, contact the local police or MW&L immediately:
McMinnville Police Department 503-434-7307
MW&L Dispatch 503-472-6158
  • Install motion-sensor lights on the outside of your house and business to deter possible thieves.
  • Store bolt cutters, wire cutters and other tools in a secure location, and never leave them out while away.
  • If you work in construction, secure the work site and do not leave any tools or wires unattended, especially overnight. Consider hiring a night security guard.
  • Help spread the word about the deadly consequences that can result from trying to steal copper.

Copper theft is not harmless. Tampering with electricity is extremely dangerous when done without proper training and tools, and it places the perpetrator and others in harms way.

You can help.

We ask our customers to assist us by reporting any suspicious activity at our substations and other facilities to the local police and MW&L.