B.C. Hydro hit in $35,000 underground copper-wire heist

Thieves crawled through manholes in order to steal $35,000 worth of copper wire in Langford, a sophisticated heist that B.C. Hydro says is one of the largest copper thefts on Vancouver Island.

West Shore RCMP are hunting for the culprits who police believe laboured over at least three nights to haul away 770 metres of wire from a green Hydro box and underground conduits near the entrance to the Westhills development on Langford Parkway.

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“The wire is the width of an adult male’s thumb, weighs more than 5,000 pounds in total and would have taken a period of three full nights to commit this theft,” said West Shore RCMP spokesman Cpl. Kathy Rochlitz.

B.C. Hydro reported the theft to police Wednesday after seeing that their utility box had been tampered with. Investigators don’t know when the theft occurred but say it could be as far back as a month.

The Hydro box sits between a soccer field parking lot and Langford Parkway, Rochlitz said, and while it is surrounded by metre-tall cedar trees, it is visible from the road and parking lot.

B.C. Hydro spokesman Ted Olynyk said area residents should consider whether they’ve seen suspicious people with a truck who might have been dressed as Hydro crews. Olynyk said given the weight of the wire, it’s likely several people were involved. “Clearly, this is a well-thought-out and orchestrated crime.”

The culprits cut neutral wire so there were no power outages, he said. It will cost B.C. Hydro more than $50,000 to replace the wire.

Hydro has seen a spike in copper wire thefts across B.C. in the past three months, he said, which have cost the utility at least $750,000 in loss of product and damage.

A surge in metal thefts has prompted the provincial government to impose tougher rules on scrap- metal dealers, requiring them to keep records of who they buy from.

Anyone who saw anything unusual in the Westhills area can call West Shore RCMP at 250-474-2264 or CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

kderosa@timescolonist.com

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