Police warn of stolen Hydro uniforms amid rash of copper thefts

Five copper wire thefts from B.C. Hydro in Greater Victoria so far this month

A number of B.C. Hydro employee uniforms have been recently stolen from work vehicles, which is how, police say, thieves have been able to successfully steal sizeable amounts of underground copper wire undetected.

“Hydro’s had some of their jackets and vests go missing from trucks, of late. It might explain why these thefts aren’t being reported,” said Saanich police Sgt. Dean Jantzen.

Three-thousand pounds of copper wire, 300 metres in length, was stolen from the 4000-block of Borden St. recently. It was reported to police on Wednesday afternoon.

“We really want people out there to keep a watchful eye on their neighbourhood. If you see crews working at unusual hours and it’s not in relation to an obvious power outage, call police,” Jantzen said.

Hydro crews also reported that underground wiring was cut at McKenzie Avenue and Century Road.

“It does seem that these things happen in waves. And this is likely one sophisticated group going around doing this in various communities,” Jantzen said.

According to B.C. Hydro, five separate thefts of underground wire have been reported in Greater Victoria this week – two in Langford, two in Esquimalt and one in Saanich.

“We’re approaching $100,000 worth of wires in lost copper (this month in Greater Victoria),” said Bob Harriman, chief security officer for B.C. Hydro. He says that cost is inclusive of the original stolen wire and the replacement costs.

On Jan. 5, it was reported that 5,000 pounds – or 770 metres – of copper wiring was stolen from the Westhills area of Langford.

West Shore RCMP said that theft likely took three days to complete. It was described, by B.C. Hydro, as one of the largest copper thefts ever on Vancouver Island.

Harriman says a number of uniforms and safety equipment were stolen from a construction trailer in Langford last July.

“If the public saw a B.C. Hydro crew, they should be able to recognize if it’s a modified crew or not. There would be a clearly marked B.C. Hydro truck, a crew with uniforms, lights, barricades and safety cones,” he said, presuming that whomever is stealing their wire doesn’t have all the necessary equipment to properly portray a legitimate B.C. Hydro crew.

“It is a B.C. Hydro top priority to support the police forces to identify these criminals. It is an organized crew and a very specialized crew committing this crime,” Harriman said.

Ellice Recycle acting general manager Gary Leibel said they alert other recycling outfits if people try to sell suspected stolen property.

“If anything looks suspicious, we call the police,” Leibel said. “Anything like thick, brand new wires signals something is not right.”

The value of the Borden Street copper is estimated at $10,000.

Anyone with information on the copper thefts is asked to contact Saanich police at 250-475-4321.

– with files from Edward Hill

kslavin@saanichnews.com