TOPEKA — Westar Energy is asking customers to watch out for suspicious behavior in and around their neighborhoods because of recent copper thefts at Westar facilities. Copper thefts across Westar’s service territory have caused expensive damage to equipment and resulted in a number of power outages.
“For scrap metal's relatively small value, thieves are willing to endanger our customers, and our linemen and substation employees, cause our customers to have power outages, and ruin expensive equipment that provides one of the most essential services for homes and businesses. We ask our customers to be vigilant for the sake of their safety and their neighbors, and report suspicious activity to the police,” said Jim Ludwig, Westar executive vice president.
Westar Energy uses a variety of methods – locks, barbed wire, alarms, danger signs and yard lighting, and security cameras – to protect substations, but the best protection against thieves is often alert people who care about their neighborhood. Thieves will face serious charges in court. A change to the state law in 2011 now makes some metal thefts felonies instead of misdemeanors.
“Besides risking electrocution by stealing copper, thieves risk jail time, put others in danger and leave thousands of customers in the dark. We are working closely with the police, and we intend to catch them,” Ludwig said.
Customers are asked to contact local law enforcement if they see anything suspicious or unusual.