Copper thieves struck three of Marlboro Electric's substations in Dillon County in August, causing more than $23,000 in damages.
The electric company says each incident resulted in a dangerous situation that could have caused an employee to be electrocuted or severely injured had they entered the substations and not noticed the vandalism.
"Not only is copper theft illegal, it endangers the lives of people, especially our employees," said MECs Information Systems and Public Relations Manager John Powers. "It can also be the death penalty to those actually committing the crime because just last year more than 25 people nationwide were killed while stealing copper. Unfortunately, the replacement cost of damaged equipment, labor and materials due to copper theft are eventually passed along to consumers on their power bills."
The Dillon Industrial, Moccasin Bluff and Little Rock substations were vandalized.
Powers says before all of the repairs were complete from the first incident, the Dillon Industrial substation was vandalized again with copper stolen. At all four crime scenes, fences were cut, ground wires were cut and left dangerously exposed, equipment damaged and copper wire stolen.
"Marlboro Electric has an infrastructure in place and it is our job to provide reliable power to our members, which is being jeopardized by copper theft," Marlboro Electric's President & CEO Bill Fleming said. "We are tired of being a victim of copper theft and we need this problem resolved for our members, for our employees and for our community."
Marlboro Electric is working closely with the sheriffs' offices in Dillon and Marlboro counties.
Sheriff Major Hulon of Dillon County says since both counties sit on the state line, copper stolen in South Carolina is being sold or disposed of in North Carolina, giving rise to the possibility of prosecuting these cases in federal court.
Anyone with information relating to theft, distribution and/or selling of any copper from Marlboro Electric Cooperative, or any other victim, is encouraged to report that information to Dillon County Sheriff's office at 843-774-1433, or call 1-888-CRIME-SC.
You do not have to give your name to report copper theft and you could become eligible for a reward.