BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The power is back on for more than 6,000 people in parts of Anne Arundel County after thieves stole copper wire right out of the active power substation. It is one of the latest incidents of what has become an all too common crime in the region.

Derek Valcourt explains how police are trying to get a handle on an increase in scrap metal and copper thefts.

Copper and other scrap metals are in big demand so thieves think it’s an easy way to make a quick buck and fuel their drug habits—and for police, it’s a constant challenge.

At some new townhomes that are under construction in the North Point area of Baltimore County, the sign out front hints at the ongoing problem. Thieves have struck there twice in the last 10 days. in all, they’ve walked away with an estimated $10,000 worth of stolen copper wire intended for electricity.

“A lot of people don’t understand the extent of metal theft,” said Lt. TJ Smith, Anne Arundel County police.

This weekend, police in Anne Arundel County were called to investigate the theft of copper wire from a Linthicum electrical substation. The thief was so desperate he literally pulled some copper wires from live electrical equipment, causing a power outage for thousands of homeowners.

“We have seen an uptick in the amount of copper wire thefts,” said Rachael Lighty, BGE.

For BGE, the thefts aren’t just about financial loss or the disruption of power, it’s the deadly danger facing anyone tampering with high voltage electrical boxes.

In addition to the tall chain link fence and barbed wire around substations, BGE is adding even more security, including surveillance cameras to catch the crooks in action. Already those cameras have helped police identify several theft suspects and BGE’s wire is now specially painted, easily identifiable for scrap metal dealers where thieves sell their stolen stuff for cash.

“Those security measures are helping us to slow down the amount of copper wire thefts,” Lighty said.

But with the rising price of copper, thieves are turning to air conditioners, boat docks, even private home gutters to find any source of copper.

Metal thefts have become so common—and now so costly—that several local police departments, including Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties, now have dedicated metal theft units that do nothing but investigate these types of crimes.

Many scrap metal recyclers are willing to pay up to $3 a pound for copper.

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