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Copper Thefts Cause Power Outages For Thousands

Thousands of Central Ohio AEP customers have experienced power outages in the last two weeks because of copper thefts from substations. Now AEP is stepping up its efforts to prevent these thefts.

More than 31,000 AEP customers around Columbus have lost power since June 20th. AEP spokesperson Vikki Michalski says break-ins and copper thefts are usually higher in the summer. But she says they've had 14 break-ins to substations in the last two weeks.

"That's really high. I mean, that's hitting multiple stations a night," she says.

Michalski says the break-ins cost AEP about $25,000 per incident to repair. She says it also creates a serious safety hazard for the public, AEP employees, and even the thieves.

"In a lot of cases there are chain link fences around the stations. There is the risk of those fences becoming energized. So if someone were to touch them, they could be injured," says Michalski.

To curb thefts, AEP continues to replace copper wiring with copper-wrapped steel wiring - which has no scrap value. The company is also offering up to a $5,000 reward for tips that lead to arrest and conviction for theft at AEP facilities.