Ohio Utility Hopes Fencing, Cameras Deter Metal Thieves

September 25, 2014

A major electricity provider in northeast Ohio is installing special security fencing and thermal-imaging cameras at some substations to keep out would-be metal thieves.

Akron-based FirstEnergy is spending $15 million this year on such efforts to strength security at substations in northeast Ohio, company spokesman Doug Colafella told the Akron Beacon Journal.

Metal thieves caused over $500,000 in losses at FirstEnergy’s facilities in the region last year, Colafella said. There were 62 substation break-ins and $250,000 in losses for one distribution company alone, Ohio Edison.

Thieves stealing copper wire or other metal can cause power outages and are risking injury or death at the complex, high-powered substations.

“They can leave a community without power for an afternoon because someone stole $150 worth of metal,” Colafella said.

To deter them, FirstEnergy is replacing chain-link fencing and barbed wire with fencing that has smaller holes and is buried in the ground, making it more difficult to cut, climb or pry up to slip through, he said. The upgrades also include cameras and loudspeakers through which would be thieves will hear a voice.

“In other words, FirstEnergy’s watching and we have law enforcement on speed dial,” Colafella said.

He wouldn’t specify which substations have been upgraded, but said 10 in Ohio Edison’s service area got updates this summer, and 10 more are slated for the next year.

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