Copper Thieves Risk Lives for Scrap Metal
By: Arnold Wyrick
WEST FRANKFORT, Ill. - Just one look at the Ameren CIPS sub-station south of West Frankfort and it's clear to see there's no easy way inside the facility. But, police say that at least two people and possibly more did break into the sub-station early Thursday morning.
"An Ameren employee arrived out there at their yard and saw a section of the fence cut out. And once inside the suspects stole thousands of dollars in copper switches and some tools out of one of the work trucks parked in the yard," said West Frankfort's Assistant Chief Jeff Tharp.
But, we're not talking about just any switches. These thieves stole the main switches for the power grid at the sub-station. And because of their size, police believe more than one person is involved in this copper theft.
"They took parts of switches for our high power lines. They are extremely large pieces of copper. When we work with these switches, we'll have a line-truck and at least two people to maneuver them around. And to take them apart like they did, took considerable time," said James O'Daniel, the superintendent of Electric Operations.
And O'Daniel went on to say that the thieves not only made off with thousands of dollars in scrap metal, but they also risked their lives and those of others who rely upon the power coming out of that sub-station.
"Breaking into any of Ameren's sub-stations that control power for several communities is very dangerous. If you're not familiar with the equipment in here you could get killed and knock out power to many communities. They took a really big risk to get this stuff," O'Daniel said.