Calgary

Calgary copper theft on the rise, metal recycler blames economy

Dan Klufas wasn't surprised to hear copper theft was the cause of a power outage in northeast Calgary this week that left nearly 5,000 homes without electricity for hours.

Police received nearly 1 report of copper theft per day in 2015, the most they've seen in a single year

Copper wire at Federal Metals, a recycling company in Calgary, has been targeted by thieves two weekends in a row, says owner Dan Klufas. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

Dan Klufas wasn't surprised to hear an attempted copper theft was the cause of a power outage in northeast Calgary this week that left nearly 5,000 homes without electricity for hours.

The owner of Federal Metals, a recycling company, says thieves have been increasingly targeting scrap metal as the Alberta economy worsens.

"It's been two weekends in a row now that people have actually tried to break in to our facility," Klufas said, adding that his extensive security system foiled the would-be robbers.

The failed burglaries are the first he's seen at Federal Metals in five years.

Klufas also said he's been receiving more and more calls from other businesses asking him to be wary of stolen copper, particularly pipes and wire, that thieves might try selling to him.

"With the economy in Alberta doing what it's done now, I think people are getting desperate," he said.

Dan Klufas is the owner of Federal Metals in Calgary. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

There were 292 reported incidents of copper theft in Calgary in 2015, according to police. That's the most they've seen in a single year.

Damage to Enmax transmission equipment on Tuesday morning caused a power outage in Taradale and Saddle Ridge that affected 4,732 customers plus another 107 customers in nearby industrial areas, the city-owned power company said.

Enmax spokeswoman Doris Kaufmann Woodcock said Thursday no copper was actually obtained in the attempted theft, but damage to the equipment was extensive enough to result in the approximately two-hour-long outage.

She also said Enmax, wherever possible, "uses alternate materials that have little value on the scrap market" in order to discourage would-be thieves.

Last December, Enmax issued a special statement about what it described as a growing problem with thieves targeting electrical transformers for scrap copper, despite the obvious hazards that come with the practice.

In 2013, a man was killed by an electric shock during an apparent theft attempt at an Enmax substation in southeast Calgary.

With files from Dave Gilson

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