The high price of copper has thieves
wrecking utility equipment to steal wire
and Salt River Project protecting itself
by posting uniformed guards at its most
vulnerable construction sites and by
lobbying the State Legislature for a law
that would slow the trade in stolen
“For the last couple of years, there’s
been an increase in the theft of wire,
particularly wire,” said Pete Chapas,
SRP’s security manager.
“Where we feel we are exposed, we deploy
either uniformed guards or we use
electronic monitoring … so the bad guys
know there is somebody watching.”
“Just to protect copper, it’s costing us
(SRP) probably $40,000-$50,000 per
month,” Chapas estimated.
Thieves don’t just pick up spools of
copper wire lying around a worksite.
They’ve been known to use chains and a
pickup truck to rip wiring off utility
poles, causing power outages and tearing
up SRP substations.
It’s not unusual for thieves to cause
$50,000 worth of damage to an SRP site
while stealing $1,000 worth of copper,
He estimated that copper theft –
including the damage caused by thieves –
cost SRP $300,000-$400,000 in the past
SRP has more construction projects under
way than usual, which means there are
more opportunities for copper thieves.
Several of those construction sites are
within the Kyrene Corridor as SRP
increases the electrical transmission
capacity between the Hanger substation
near Guadalupe and Price roads and the
Houston substation on McClintock just
north of Ray Road.
It’s not unusual for SRP to have as many
as 30 construction sites going at one
time, according to Chapas. Uniformed
guards are posted at many of those
sites, he said.
SRP contracts with a private security
company for about 200 uniformed guards
each day, Chapas said.
The second front in the battle against
copper theft is happening at the Arizona
SRP is one of the strongest supporters
of H.B. 2314, a law that would
metal dealers to maintain records of all
scrap metal purchases and would require
dealers who purchase scrap copper or
aluminum to hold payments for 15 days
and then pay only by check – no cash.
Chapas, who has appeared in the State
Capitol to promote H.B. 2314, said the
payment restrictions will discourage
drug users hoping to make a quick buck
by stealing copper.
Scrap metal dealers
must keep a
record of any transaction involving the
receipt of scrap metal that exceeds $25.
Each record must include specified
information such as an identifying
description of the scrap metal and the
seller’s name, physical description,
address, date of birth and driver
Within 24 hours, the dealer must deliver to the local law
enforcement agency a record of the
receipt that includes the information
about the seller.
Additionally, dealers must hold onto the aluminum and copper it
buys for a week after purchasing it and
sending the seller information to
The requirements do not apply, however, when the seller holds an
“industrial account” that requires the
seller to file monthly sales tax
When H.B. 2314 was introduced earlier
this year, Chapas told legislators
that the loss
in materials to SRP over the last two
years has been in excess of $300,000,
including maintenance required to put
the various facilities back together
after the thefts occurred.
Chapas testified that the increase in
copper theft has been dramatic over the
last three years, with 50 thefts in
2004-2005 increasing to 95 thefts in