Reward offered for information on substation copper thefts

Police say thieves are risking their lives by stealing copper from electrical substations.

Marlboro County Sheriff Fred Knight says someone stole about 100 feet of copper grounding wire from an electrical substation on Burnt Factory Road in Bennettsville.

"You see this sign behind me? It says dangerous high voltage. You're dealing with a very dangerous situation," said Knight.

It's a high risk situation that puts not only the thieves in danger, but power crews that have to come in behind them to fix the damage.

"Someone is going to get killed. It hasn't happened yet, but if they keep it up it will happen," said Bill Fleming, Marlboro Electric Cooperative, Inc.

In some cases, thieves have been electrocuted or even killed stealing copper at electrical substations.

Officials with Marlboro Electric Cooperative, Inc. say they've had at least 1,300 utility poles and substations hit, and it's costing the company and its customers.

"Every citizen in our community has a stake in this problem and we are all affected," said Melvin Carabo, Board Chairman Marlboro Electric Co-op.

The power company has teamed up with Marlboro County Sheriff Fred Knight and Dillon County Sheriff Major Hulon in effort to solve the crimes.

"It's very serious and we're gonna do everything we can to help try to stop and prevent this copper crime," said Sheriff Major Hulon.

Hulon adds that Dillon and Marlboro counties sit on the border of the North Carolina state line, and it's very likely that thieves are selling the copper in North Carolina. He says that opens the door for the Federal Bureau of Investigations to get involved.

Hulon said, " The FBI is also taking interest and notice and they're gonna get involved in this."

Marlboro Electric is offering a substantial reward fund to help deputies gather some information. Officials aren't saying how much money is in the pot, but say it's enough to make someone talk.

"We do know that it takes money. People will turn in folks but the money's got to be there," said Bill Fleming.

If you have any information about the thefts at the substations, you can call the Marlboro County Sheriff's Department at (843) 479-5605 or the Dillon County Sheriff's Department at (843) 841-3721.