Harsher penalties sought for SEPTA copper thefts
UNIVERSITY CITY - February 27, 2012 (WPVI) -- Officials from SEPTA say it's a problem, that's only getting bigger.
"Just this morning, we had a delay on the West Trenton line cause some copper was stolen, delayed trains 20 minutes," SEPTA Chief Engineer for Power Andrew Gillespie said.
But when bandits rip-off copper wiring from SEPTA tracks, they do more than cause transit delays. They also become a serious economic drain.
Just last year, the transit authority shelled out $500,000 to replace all the stolen copper wiring, and make related repairs.
Gillespie says the frustrating part is that the market for "hot" copper has become increasingly attractive for thieves.
"Now that copper is $3 to $4 on the commodity market, the scrap dealers are paying more money for scrap copper, so people are stealing it," Gillespie said.
So now, SEPTA is reaching out to law enforcement authorities to prosecute these cases more aggressively.
Normally, copper bandits are charged with little more than trespassing and theft. But transit officials say stealing copper wiring from train lines should be a felony since those thieves routinely cut into the rail line's electrical system.
The damage they create could potentially send thousands of volts of electricity surging into things like metal banisters or platforms endangering the safety of commuters, not to mention the danger they put themselves into.
Meantime, SEPTA's efforts are already starting to bear fruit; just a few weeks ago, the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office filed reckless endangerment charges against the man accused of stealing copper wiring along the Lansdale-Doylestown line.
That man ended up pleading guilty and his sentencing is scheduled for next month.
philadelphia, pennsylvania, SEPTA, theft, crime, walter perez
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