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Reward offered in copper-theft case

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

A $500 reward is being offered by a group of utility companies for information leading to the arrest, and conviction, of suspects who reportedly stole an estimated $800 worth of copper wire from a Georgia Power substation in Stockbridge, according to Henry County police.

"Copper theft is a growing problem throughout the state," said Lynn Wallace, a spokesperson for Georgia Power. "Copper wire is the most frequent target for would-be thieves at Georgia Power facilities."

Wallace said thieves steal the wiring because they want to sell it to "dishonest recyclers." She warned, Tuesday, that such thefts could become deadly.

"This equipment in our substations has thousands of volts of electricity running through it. So, someone not trained to handle the equipment can easily be badly hurt, or killed," Wallace said.

Wallace said Georgia Power, and other electric utility companies in Georgia, will pay the reward for information about thefts, and break-ins, at their facilities.

The utility-equipment theft in Stockbridge reportedly took place Jan. 25, according to Henry County Police Capt. Jason Bolton. "The ... suspects broke into the building, and several vehicles, at the Georgia Power Electrical substation located at 250 Rock Quarry Road," Bolton said.

Henry County police have obtained video footage of the suspects in the January break-in at Georgia Power, and are releasing it to the public in hopes that someone will recognize those involved in the alleged theft. Anyone with information regarding the identities or whereabouts of the suspects is asked to contact Henry County Police Detective Joe Norton at (770) 288-8262.

To report information on other copper-theft cases in Georgia, call Georgia Power's security department at 1-877-732-8717. Wallace said calls can be made anonymously, 24 hours a day.

Representatives of Georgia Power, Central Georgia Electric Membership Corp., and Snapping Shoals Electric Membership Corp., held a joint meeting last month in Stockbridge.

June Wood, assistant to the Metro South region manager for Georgia Power, said at the time that Henry and Clayton counties seemed to encounter more cases of copper thefts, compared to other areas.

Wood said an increasing number of copper-wire theft cases have been reported in the past year, with culprits stealing copper, and aluminum, from transformers and power substations.

State lawmakers passed Senate Bill 82, during the 2009 legislative session, which addresses the penalties for thefts of copper and aluminum. According to the law, thefts exceeding $500 in value can result in a sentence of one to five years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

Staff writer Valerie Baldowski contributed to this article.