LANGLEY, Vancouver - A 35-year-old Surrey man trying to steal copper wire was electrocuted when he cut through a high-voltage line near a BC Hydro substation in Langley, police said Monday.
"Last year we had a fellow who lost two fingers trying to steal Telus wires and now we've got a death," Langley RCMP Cpl. Diane Blain said of the growing problem of metal theft across the Lower Mainland.
"They'll steal anything that is metal," Blain said. "It has been a problem we have been battling for a long time."
Electrical and telephone wires are often stolen and sold to scrap metal dealers for the value of the copper.
"It is on the increase," BC Hydro official Tarina Palmer said of copper wire thefts. "Copper prices are the highest they've been for some time."
The price of copper doubled this year, hitting a record $4.04 US apound, up from $1.98 US on Jan. 1.
At about 3 a.m. Monday, a BC Hydro worker investigating a power failure in Langley found the dead man near a hydro substation at 273 Street and Gloucester Way. The man's body was discovered in an underground junction box, which had been locked.
A preliminary investigation by police revealed the man was attempting to cut a live wire and was electrocuted by about 14,000 volts.
The man was known to police and had a criminal record. His name will be released after his family has been notified, police said.
Langley RCMP suggested one way to solve the metal theft problem is for businesses to refuse to buy from suspected thieves.
Scrap-metal dealers often say they don't know something is stolen but they should be suspicious about a person bringing in metal using a stolen Wal-Mart shopping cart, Blain said.
"We're asking the businesses not to buy from people pushing a shopping cart," she said.
Langley RCMP has asked metal recycling business owners to prevent the re-sale of stolen metal by following these simple guidelines: Ask the seller for identification; record names, addresses and other contact information; pay by cheque, if possible; buy only from reputable dealers; keep a record of all transactions and refuse any suspicious transactions, which should be reported to police.
Richmond RCMP also reported a metal theft early Sunday -- a $3,000 industrial-style stainless steel barbecue was taken from the lacrosse box at Steveston Park. It had been borrowed by the local Rotary club from Save-on-Foods and was being used by the concession staff at the Const. Jimmy Ng Memorial Street Hockey Tournament.
It had been secured the previous night by a chain and locked padlock.
The suspects likely used boltcutters to cut the lock or chain. The BBQ weighed more than 136 kilograms and required a truck and at least four people to move it, said Richmond Cpl. Peter Thiessen.
"It is quite likely that this theft is related to the large number of metal thefts occurring in the Lower Mainland and will be sold to a metal salvage yard," he said.