PEORIA, SPRINGFIELD and DECATUR, Ill., Dec. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- As the value of copper and other metals has risen, thieves are risking their lives and the lives of innocent people to steal materials that contain copper throughout the Ameren Illinois utilities service territory.
Not only have thieves stolen copper wire from Ameren Illinois utility facilities, but they have targeted copper wire and pipes at businesses, private homes and apartments.
"Deaths have occurred in at least 15 states when thieves have attempted to steal copper wire from utility facilities. It is only a matter of time before a death occurs here in Illinois," said Ron Pate, vice president of Regional Operations for the Ameren Illinois utilities.
"These thieves are placing more than themselves in harm's way. Copper thefts can cause extensive power outages, fires and explosions that may injury or even kill innocent people. Copper theft is a crime that targets all of us."
The best line of defense against copper theft is preparation and vigilance. Pate recommends these steps:
-- If you have information about a copper theft, report it immediately to police or your local Crime Stoppers, an organization that offers rewards but does not ask for a tipster's name. -- Immediately report to the police any suspicious activity around Ameren Illinois utility electric substations or other utility facilities. -- When away from home, make certain your house and outbuildings are securely locked. If you will be gone for an extended period of time, notify the police, have a trusted friend or neighbor watch your property, put lights on timer devices to give the home a "lived in" look and stop mail, newspaper and other deliveries. Make arrangements to have walks and drives cleared of snow. -- Both homeowners and businesses should consider installing exterior motion-sensor lights that help deter thieves and prowlers. -- Store all tools and wire cutters in a secured location. -- Store all materials containing copper in a secured building. -- Secure construction sites. Consider hiring a night security guard. -- Secure vacant houses, apartments and other buildings. These are common targets of copper thieves.
On Jan 1, 2008, Illinois will make it more difficult for copper thieves. A new state law requires scrap metal processors to maintain a record of the identity of any person selling scrap metal valued at $100 or more. This information will be available to law enforcement authorities.
"With the help of our customers and others, we not only can curb copper thefts, but help make certain no one is injured or killed by this potentially deadly crime," Pate said.
The Ameren Illinois utilities serve 1.2 million electric and more than 840,000 natural gas customers in a 43,700-square-mile area of Illinois.
SOURCE: Ameren Illinois
CONTACT: Erica Abbett, +1-618-236-4329, or Natalie Hemmer,
+1-217-424-7541, or Neal Johnson, +1-309-677-5284, or Leigh Morris,
+1-217-535-5228, all of Ameren Illinois
Web site: http://www.ameren.com/