ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico’s largest electric utility has teamed up with Crime Stoppers in a public service campaign to put a dent in copper thefts around the state.
There were more than 300 metal thefts in Albuquerque alone so far this year, Public Service Company of a New Mexico said in a news release.
The thieves leave live wires exposed, endangering any unsuspecting person who could come in contact with the wires and be killed, PNM said.
Although the thieves may only get less than $100 per theft for selling stolen copper wire, the business and residential victims may be out thousands of dollars in repair costs and down time due to the thefts.
PNM and Crime Stoppers are asking anyone seeing any suspicious activity near power lines, power poles or near electrical equipment or distribution boxes behind businesses to call police immediately.
Earlier this year, the state Legislature considered stiffer penalties for metal thieves, but a Senate committee killed the effort.
In one incident in February — as lawmakers still were weighing whether to approve stronger penalties for metal and wire theft — a man nearly electrocuted himself and caused a five-hour power failure in six McKinley County communities while trying to steal copper wiring from high-voltage equipment.
In another incident in November of 2012 near the Route 66 casino west of Albuquerque, thieves trying to steal wire knocked out phone and Internet service to much of the west side of the state for more than 15 hours.
The thieves believed they were stealing copper ground wire for PNM power poles, but in fact cut a fiber cable that connected the whole western part of the state.
The House of Representatives voted 60-0 to approve a bill raising the crime of metal or wire theft to the level of a felony if it results in a power failure that affects the public, but an identical bill in the Senate was killed by the Judiciary Committee in a 5-5 vote.