Telus vs. The Copper Thieves

by Jordan Richardson on March 16, 2010

The price of copper was $1.90 a pound a year ago, but the value of the ductile metal has since risen to around $3.40 a pound, causing some opportunistic thieves to get very serious about collecting as much of the stuff as possible.

For thousands of customers in the Metro Vancouver area, this has meant cable outages. For Telus, this has meant hundreds of thousands of dollars in repair costs.

As of Sunday, Telus has reported seven separate outages last week alone. The outages were caused when thieves cut and stole copper cables from hydro poles. The copper cables were then resold for the higher market value.

According to Telus spokesman Shawn Hall, there have been between 20 and 30 incidents of copper thefts in the Metro Vancouver area so far this year. Far from a victimless felony, these thefts cause a loss of service to customers which can, in turn, create difficult circumstances should emergency phone or internet service be needed.

“Our real concern here is that it may seem like a victimless crime, but it’s not,” Hall told The Province newspaper. “These thieves are robbing our customers of 911 service, as well as other telecommunication services.”

Thieves stole roughly 60 metres of copper cable from the Mission area on Friday, leaving some 270 customers without phone and internet service. Another 270 customers went without service at the same time when cable was cut.

Last Monday, March 8, saw 1,000 Surrey customers affected and 600 Langley customers faced service loss on last Tuesday from another copper theft.

These incidents have led Telus to begin replacing the copper cables with fibre-optic cables. “It’s primarily to radically increase Internet speed and high-definition TV, but it has the added side benefit of being absolutely worthless on the scrap market,” Hall said.

Other measures have been put in place by Telus to help nab the copper thieves, with surveillance and undercover work in collaboration with the RCMP said to be on the list. According to Hall, thieves have actually posed as Telus employees in the past to pinch copper cables.

Telus and the RCMP are asking the public and copper dealers to be on the lookout for any suspicious activity regarding this matter. And if you happen to be sitting on a substantial storage of copper cable, now might be a good time to spring for some extra security equipment or, at the very least, a bigger dog.

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