It is every tower owner’s nightmare. Thieves broke into the compound of a Canadian public safety tower and stole part of the grounding system, leaving the site vulnerable to the lightning strike that knocked out communications for fire and ambulance crews in the county on June 26.
Only six feet of copper wire had been taken but it was enough to compromise the grounding system, according to Vern Elliott, deputy chief of Strathcona County EMS.
After the storm passed through, the county’s dispatcher was not able to communicate with mobile radios, but the portables, which used a repeater system, were still functioning. Fire and EMS crews would have to rely on the repeater system for the next 14 hours while the tower was fixed.
The lightning strike caused $25,000 in damage to the tower, while the stolen copper was worth $30 to $50.
The county is now considering deploying security measures at the tower site, including a video monitoring system.
“I knew copper theft was a problem,” Elliott told AGL Bulletin. “But now that it has affected us and I looked into it, it is a bigger problem than I thought it was.”
Ironically, Elliott did a number of media interviews in the wake of the incident that led to what he believed were a number of copycat copper thefts at tower sites that night.
“By doing those interviews and telling people that these thefts adversely affect everyone, I seemed to inspire people to steal copper from other towers,” Elliott said.
In other copper theft news, two men in Clinton County, Ohio, were accused of stealing copper from a cell tower, according to the News Journal, after a search of their car by police revealed copper wire, two pairs of bolt cutters and a cut padlock.
A man who might qualify as one of the world’s dumbest criminals inquired about the price of copper at a Cedar Lake, Ill., scrap metal recycling company, which just happened to be across the street from a cell tower. Suspicious, the scrap proprietors tipped off police, who arrived at the tower just about the same time the man began pulling copper wire from a grounding plate inside the cell site. A dozen grounding plates were later found in the man’s trunk, according the NWI Times
He was jailed on trespassing, criminal mischief, attempted theft and possession of stolen property.