Coachella, California - Imperial Irrigation District has seen a sharp increase in the number of copper thefts in its Coachella Valley service territory during the first half of 2016.

In the last few weeks the district has investigated copper theft at 10 separate locations along one if its main electrical circuits, and this week, responded to a major theft at a Coachella manufacturing facility where thieves hit a small substation.

“Unfortunately, thieves seem to be getting more brazen in their attempt to steal copper from energized energy structures, taking an incredible amount of risk to life and limb,” said IID investigator Robert Haskell.

Theft of electrical energy equipment is extremely dangerous, possibly resulting in death.

Additionally, it is a serious crime as it compromises the safety of the electrical system, placing maintenance personnel and the thieves themselves at great risk.

And it’s expensive for ratepayers. The theft at the mini substation alone will result in about $10,000 in repairs, yet the amount of cash thieves might get would amount to quite little.

In the recent rash of copper thefts, thieves have been targeting energized underground electrical structures and street lighting systems. The uptick (55 reported incidents so far in 2016) is consistent with the district’s worst year on record for copper theft, which was in 2012 when repairs cost IID ratepayers over $1 million.

IID and law enforcement agencies are asking the public to be vigilant, keeping watch for suspicious activity around electrical equipment and reporting such activities to local authorities.