Copper Thieves

If you are the type of person that drives around to transmitter sites and steals things; fuck you. You have no idea the problems you are causing to get a few extra dollars worth of scrap copper.

Missing copper ground buss bar
Missing copper ground buss bar

I have a feeling that most of these copper thefts can be attributed to out-of-town tower contractors removing old cellular equipment from towers.  Notice, only the buss bar and copper ground wire is missing.  They did not try to cut the transmission lines.  In other words, they seemed to know what they were doing.  I have noticed around here that when a particular contractor, employed by an unnamed large company that rhymes with glint, would work at a site, things would be missing afterward.

Perhaps it is just a coincidence. I have never been able to catch anyone pinching things. However, if this is you, and I catch you, you can rest assured that I will block you in with my car, then walk down the road and call the police.

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10 thoughts on “Copper Thieves”

  1. Just had that happen at one of my sites in Brick NJ. Looks exactly the same. All the broadcast and cellular buss bars were gone, except for one that is not copper.

  2. These idiots make it tough for those of us who simply want to photograph towers, from doing so. I don’t want to be harrassed taking a picture, but some moron is stealing copper, making security an issue.

    F-k them, I say.


    (And yes, I have been victim of it. They stole ground leads from my guy anchors at my previous station. All 9 wires! I don’t need to tell you what happens when you steal ground leads off of guy anchor plates on a 930′ guyed tower. Or how much work it is to replace them.)

  3. Worst are the E911 dispatch sites. We have one in Dutchess County (NY) that was stripped last year. Again, only the ground buss bars and down leads. Nothing else. It is infuriating to think about what could happen if the radios where knocked out by a lightning strike and the county lost dispatch in that area. All I can say is what goes around comes around; if you steal, break and disable public services, one of these days you will be done in by your own stupidity.

  4. I have a site that has been hit twice in the past 6 years. The first time, they cut the feed lines and tower light cable as well as the tower and building grounding. The 2nd time, they just cut the tower and building grounding.

    The 2nd time, the thief left his tool bag w/ a receipt for scrap copper with his name, tag # and DL. Gave that to the local SO and 2 years later still no arrest.

    I also once caught an out of town tower crew helping on of my clients out by cutting up a length of 5-1/4in line. I discovered the line missing and about 5 minutes later found several cutup pieces of 5-1/4in in their truck. They were able to convince LE that they had just finished an install with that line and this was the scrap. Sure… No charges.

    Thankfully scrap price is down some and thefts down here have slowed down. We now have DSL at this site and I am going to hang a camera at the back of the TX to watch the line and tower base.

  5. The exact same thing happened at one of our sites. Ground wires were cut, buss bars removed, but no transmission lines were touched.

    The site has cell equipment, but not with a name ending in “int.” It probably was done by a contractor, as they could park in view of a highly visible security camera. (No camera watching the area where stuff was taken.)

  6. Got line sections, tools, etc. you want to keep? Spray paint them pink. Seems nobody wants pink anything. Haven’t lost much in awhile.

  7. Coating the wires with tar is also a good anti theft measure as nobody will want to go through the time to try to scrape it down to bare wire. With their relatively low cost why aren’t more station operators investing in on-site security DVRs or remotely viewable cameras so staff can alert the police?

  8. I am currently in the process of having all of our guywire grounds replaced as they were all cut by copper thieves. They’d be lucky if the stolen copper even amounts to $200, but have cost us likely a couple thousand $$.

  9. Recently had trouble with Law Enforcement in upstate NY, when i was trying to take pictures of an AT&T Facility that was sold to American Tower Corporation… They searched my vehicle with my permission of course, i asked what they were looking for, they told me a nearby homeowner thought i looked suspicious and they called in to report vandalism might be taking place near the premises of the tower..

    I told police i’ve been researching for the past 10yrs, Microwave Towers built by AT&T and have been collecting info/photo’s of abandoned and or active facilities in the tri state area (NY/NJ/CT).. They looked at me with a blank stare and probably thought i was crazy… I responded i’m just curious about communications from the past and present.

    Hasnt stopped me from travelling to other destinations located 100-500miles from where i’m living at the time being… But i’m glad i came across this blog.. Lots of great info and stories, keep up the great work…


  10. Say Dean, those are some pretty cool pictures you have there, including one building that I used to work in while stations on Guam. Regarding the ATT and other sites in upstate NY, I was working at one of them and was questioned quite extensively by a county sheriffs deputy. Clearly I was working on site, as I had the door unlocked, my analyser out and running, etc. The problem is, there have been a rash of thefts at these sites, many of which function as 911 dispatch repeater sites, so the local LE people are being vigilant.

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