It's an issue that affects anyone who uses electric utilities across the state. The Iowa Electric Utilities Coalition is teaming up with Crime Stoppers to curb copper theft.
When copper criminals steal copper from utility poles and appliances, energy groups say thieves have no idea how much damage their causing.
“It can definitely lead to a power outage but beyond that it can lead to something much more serious - a fire or it can lead to an injury that could occur an individual,” says MidAmerican Energy spokeswoman, Tina Potthoff.
Utilities that have been tampered with don't operate properly, making it a hazard. However damaged utilities also cost the energy company and its customers a lot of money. MidAmerican Energy is one of four utility companies that are joining forces to stop copper thefts.
Potthoff says, “This program is really going to help us catch thieves or possible identify people that may be potential suspects when it comes to copper theft.”
The companies have teamed up with the crime stoppers tip line, because copper thieves are not easy to catch.
“We want the eyes the community out there to help us. Some of the copper thefts are very small while some of them are large,” say spokesman, Bob Dickelman of the Iowa Electric Utilities.
Sgt. Jason Halifax with the Des Moines police department says he dealt with an increasing amount of copper thefts since the recession.
“Certainly it`s a tradeoff and obviously there’s better ways to make a living the by stealing copper.”
Scrap copper is selling for about three bucks a pound but law officials say the criminals actions aren't worth the consequences.
Halifax says, “Pretty quick you get into the felony range again even just a simple break into the house and cutting piping out of the house, that`s felony already because its burglary.”
Energy companies say their primary focus is to keep their customers safe.
Potffhoff says, “There is an outcome to these things and there is an impact on people.”
The Crimestoppers number is 1-(800)-452-1111