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‘All it takes is to cut the wrong wire’: Copper wire thefts pose fatal risk

Click to play video: 'Copper wire thefts pose fatal risk in New Brunswick' Copper wire thefts pose fatal risk in New Brunswick
WATCH: After the YMCA of Greater Moncton reported its second copper wire theft in the past three months, Codiac RCMP say they're seeing an increase in similar thefts. Callum Smith reports. – Dec 6, 2019

After the YMCA of Greater Moncton reported its second copper wire theft in the past three months, Codiac RCMP say they’ve recently seen an uptick in similar thefts.

But for scrap metal yards, it’s rarely possible to track what’s stolen and what isn’t.

“We don’t know where this stuff is coming from,” says Daniel Rinzler, the manager of D.R. Scrap Metals. “It’s impossible to identify.”

READ MORE: Copper wire theft causes power outage in Welland: police

That’s because there’s little-to-no marking on the wire to indicate ownership, he says.

Codiac RCMP says they’ve dealt with 20 reported copper thefts since October 1, “a number that is probably above the norm,” according to Sgt. Save MacDonnell.

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Sgt. Dave MacDonnell of the Codiac RCMP says there have been 20 reported copper wire thefts in the Moncton area since October 1. Callum Smith / Global News

But he urges homeowners and businesses to report any suspected crime to help track data and hopefully find those responsible.

“Even attempts are important that we know about just so we can draw any links that may come with any of these incidents,” he says.

Zane Korytko, the CEO of the YMCA of Greater Moncton, is growing frustrated after being hit for a second time in the last three months on Wednesday.

READ MORE: ‘This is a huge loss’: $60K back-up generator stolen from Village of Port Elgin

“As a charity, our money is tight to begin with,” he said in an interview earlier this week. “Then to have to foot the bill to have the lights re-installed once again, it’s a hardship on us.”

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That’s why he’s calling for a thorough RCMP investigation into the thefts there and around the city.

While Rinzler says copper is going for approximately $2.50 per pound, the risk can be fatal, according to N.B. Power.

“It’s an extremely dangerous thing,” Marc Belliveau, a spokesperson for the province’s utility says. “A lot of the individuals who are going into our substations have no background whatsoever in knowing how electricity works or how wiring works.”

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“All it takes is to cut the wrong wire and you can find yourself in extreme difficulty through extreme injury or death.”

He says there have been two deaths as a result of attempted copper thefts at substations in the past decade in the province.

Most recently, a 41-year-old man died after breaking into a Bathurst substation.

READ MORE: Family of New Brunswick man killed in 2015 offers $10,000 for information

“We have a very sizable loss which is absorbed by rate-payers of about 300-thousand dollars every year,” Belliveau says. “75 per cent of that is actual copper theft.”

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Belliveau recommends adding security measures, which has been done at N.B. Power substations, but also something the ‘Y’ has done.

Marc Belliveau, an NB Power spokesperson, says rate-payers absorb roughly $300,000 worth of thefts annually. Megan Yamoah / Global News

They’ve done additional welding to the light poles at the Vaughan Harvey Boulevard location, but they’re also doing more to stay safe at their new satellite location.

“The new north-end ‘Y’ that’s being constructed,” Korytko says. “We’ve been forced to pose security now, evenings and weekends because our construction manager has been very upfront with us in saying they were worried that copper thieves would come into the building and steal all the copper.”

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