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CPBJ Extra Blog

PPL warning shouldn't be shocking, but maybe thieves should read business news?

By - Last modified: June 11, 2013 at 9:19 AM
Brent Burkey
Brent Burkey

PPL Electric Utilities put out a warning this month that you wouldn't think is needed: Don't break into its electrical substations to steal copper wire.

It's dangerous. You could die.

But nonetheless, the utility has seen what it's called a spate of break-ins in its territory in Eastern and Central Pennsylvania. All told, the company reports about two dozen copper wire theft incidents so far this year — mostly at substations, according to a PPL news release.

Why would someone do that? The high price of copper has been the given reason, and the issue is big enough that a York County lawmaker proposed legislation that recently passed the state Senate to up the charges for metal theft.

PPL is not the only utility operating in the midstate that has reported such issues in the past few years.

But maybe the best memo to send out to would-be thieves would be the news about copper prices and demand factors for scrap. They have headed south.

When I was a police beat reporter in York a few — actually, more like several at this point — years ago, metal thefts were already an evident problem. I remember doing a story on one property that was broken into while it was being fixed up, with the copper piping stolen.

Even churches with copper downspouting weren't off limits, as I recall.

Maybe the free market, in the end, is the only thing that will stop it.

Brent Burkey covers retail, tourism, and Lebanon and York counties. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at You can also follow him on Twitter, @brentburkey.

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