After repeatedly being a victim of copper theft, a Florida electric cooperative successfully fought for tough new ordinances in two counties it serves, and is now taking the battle to a third.

The arrow points to the missing 4/0 ground wires that copper thieves stole from this Georgia Transmission substation. (Photo By: Georgia Transmission)

 “We contacted the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office and worked with them in conjunction with the county commission and got the law passed,” said David Lambert, manager, member relations, at Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative.

The Dade City-based co-op has seen the number of copper theft cases—and the resulting bills—pile up. In 2007, Withlacoochee suffered $6,861 in theft and vandalism. Two years later the total reached $108,809. By last year the figure jumped to $266,780.

Florida is just one front in the copper theft war, where battles are also being fought in Georgia and Illinois. But in the Sunshine State, time is of the essence in getting county bills approved.

“There is a bill moving through the state legislature. But if the local bill gets in first, and it’s tougher, the local provision stays in,” Lambert explained.

The Pasco County measure was passed Feb. 7, with Hernando County following a week later. Both require scrap dealers to use the same software program as pawn brokers. The recyclers will have to record all metal purchases and email the list to the sheriff’s office by 10 a.m. the following day.

Lambert said “good, legal recyclers don’t have a problem with” the new law.

Withlacoochee supports similar legislation in Citrus County. “We’re going to hit every county that we can,” Lambert told

February 22, 2012
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