They call it the ‘red gold rush’. And in the last two years, utilities across north America say it’s a growing safety and security threat. Theft of copper wire from FortisAlberta’s electricity distribution system costs millions and damages the integrity and reliability of delivering power to your home or business.
Crime is driven by the world market price for copper which has soared 400 per cent in the past five years. Copper is the most valuable non-ferrous metal. Utilities are not the only targets. Construction, oil and gas companies, municipalities and other businesses are also common victims of crime.
In 2022, FortisAlberta had nearly 380 thefts. Along with the considerable cost of repairing our power poles, wires, transformers and other assets, is the cost of the environmental clean up which averages $15,000 per site.
When energized services are vandalized, not only is there potential for injury and death to those committing the crime, but also to workers and innocent victims who may come upon energized lines when trying to make repairs.
The safety of our customers, communities and employees is our number one priority. So, FortisAlberta has partnered with the RCMP and other local law enforcement agencies. We are asking crime agencies and volunteers for help as well by reporting any suspicious activity to local law enforcement. This includes:
- Non-branded employees and vehicles working around a pole or transformer
- Downed lines that appear to be ‘cut’ or ‘dragged’ to the ground
- Broken poles or open transformers
Please do not put yourself at risk by approaching anyone who you feel might be suspicious. Assume all downed lines are energized and stay 10 metres away. Ask law enforcement to contact the utility. If you have questions, FortisAlberta Contact Centre agents will be happy to help 24/7 at 310-WIRE (9473).
We appreciate all volunteer crime agencies and know that by working together with our 1,300 employees around the province, we can keep the system safe and lights on for the over half-million customers that FortisAlberta serves. For more information on scrap metal, wire and equipment theft or vandalism, the Government of Alberta has outlined the steps to reporting incidents, the legal requirements as a buyer or seller of metals, as well as the penalties when caught engaging in illegal metal theft.