BPA Thieves a Danger
by Associated Press
TROUTDALE, Ore. - The Bonneville Power Administration continues to be a magnet for metal thieves, despite the danger involved in stealing from operating substations.
BPA spokeswoman Heidi Helwig said thefts and vandalism at BPA facilities costs ratepayers from $500,000 to $1 million each year. But it can also cost lives. Last October, a man was electrocuted while trying to steal copper wiring from the fenced Clark Public Utilities station northwest of Vancouver, Wash.
"In addition to risking their own lives, thieves are putting at risk the safety of the general public and the employees who work in the facilities and they place the region's electric grid at greater risk for unplanned outage," Helwig said.
Suspected metal thieves have hit BPA facilities twice in the past week.
Last Saturday, a Multnomah County sheriff's dog caught up with a suspect near the Troutdale substation. Officers found several large aluminum pulleys in the back of the man's car and wire cutters and tools in a backpack, according to Lt. Jason Gates, spokesman for the sheriff.
Deputies cited Shawn T. Wear, 40, of Troutdale for criminal trespassing. He may face additional charges.
"Aluminum is a metal very popular with thieves as they can turn it around for easy cash," Gates said.
Also last weekend, a BPA security guard and Clark County sheriff's deputies arrested John R. Escarcega, 34, inside a fenced storage area at the BPA Ross Complex in Vancouver. Helwig said police recovered a backpack that contained burglary tools and large metal bolts taken from the storage area. Escarcega was charged with burglary, trespass and malicious mischief.
Metal thefts have soared in recent years as looters look to turn brass, aluminum and copper into drug money, police say. Though BPA has been a frequent target, thieves have stolen everything from bleachers and guard rails to sprinkler heads and traffic signs
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