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WAPA Decries Continuing Copper Thefts Affecting Utility Operations

(Thursday, August 15, 2013)

The Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA) decries the continuing theft of copper that is adversely affecting utility operations and plaguing the Virgin Islands community Executive Director Hugo V. Hodge, Jr. said today.

According to Hodge, repairs to streetlights on St. Croix’s Melvin H. Evans Highway have been severely stymied by the theft of copper which has left long spans of the highway in darkness. Thieves have made off with over 19,000 feet of wire from the highway lights. “This is extremely costly to the Authority, frustrating to line crews working diligently to make the repairs, and presents impediments to motorists who travel the highway nightly,” Hodge said. “To repeatedly fix lights only for the copper to be stolen is an exercise in futility,” he said, adding that the cost of repairs must ultimately be passed on to WAPA customers.

Copper thieves have apparently also impacted the Authority’s project to replace pole mounted transformers with pad mounted transformers at six St. Croix public schools, the Department of Education’s Curriculum Center and VITEMA headquarters by recently vandalizing the construction site at the Charles Emanuel School, Hodge said. The work designed to increase electrical service reliability and safety at these facilities is funded by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) at a total cost of $814,255. “Again, the damage to a transformer, riser pole conduit, cables and locks by those seeking money for metal not only delays our work and forces the Authority to search for internal funds to replace the damaged installations, but it is clear that these would be thieves apparently have no scruples as to whom they will steal from or facilities they will damage for their own selfish gains. It is very disheartening,” he said. Copper bandits have also made off with wire from the primary riser at the site of the Boys and Girls Club in downtown Christiansted and the absence of ground wires which have been cut from poles across the island have contributed to outages at the power plant when heavy surges occur on the system.

Hodge said that The Virgin Islands Police Department has launched an investigation and all persons found guilty of the theft of any part of the Authority’s infrastructure will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Cutting and stealing power lines is a criminal act that carries very stiff consequences, which can include loss of limbs or life from electrocution. It’s very dangerous.

Anyone with information about the theft of copper wire from WAPA facilities should report what they know to the VIPD, or to WAPA’s Internal Audit Revenue Assurance Division at 340-715-6563 or can email to: reportservicetheft@viwapa.vi. Anonymous reports can also be made by contacting Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or www.crimstoppersusvi.org, Hodge concluded.

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