Medina Journal-Register — The Independence Day holiday provides many offices, restaurants and service businesses a respite from normal business, but the day off also creates an opening for criminal activity.
The darkened storefront can hide the fact that a person looking to steal and sell copper wires has taken advantage of a quiet moment and robbed the power from a building for their gain.
That reality was faced for a number of local businesses over the Memorial Day weekend, as their electricity meter boxes were broken into before a thief or thieves pulled out more than 70 feet of copper conduit wires.
Matt Mundion’s Orient Street roofing and siding business and a pair of stores in a Maple Ridge Road plaza — Fastenal and Rent-A-Center — were all hit by the bandit that holiday weekend, and similar reports were made in Lockport and Niagara Falls.
While the interiors of each business were not breached, they were all without power when business resumed that Tuesday. “We had to work with flashlights,” Mundion said.
Chuck Brennan, the general manager of the Medina Fastenal, said the tool store was able to run off of a back-up generator that they have in case of a major snow storm.
“So it wasn’t a disaster,” Brennan said. But he still hoped the thief is caught.
A joint investigation into the larcenies by the Medina Police Department and the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department is ongoing and is said to be progressing.
An arrest wouldn’t totally remove the threat of this type of crime. Panel boxes are in most cases put in a secluded area of a building and used only when an inspector from an energy company makes their measurements. They aren’t locked down, with just a tamper ring to show there was an improper entry — those were cut in the Medina larcenies.
There are live wires in the boxes that could kill or seriously injure an intruder, but whoever hit in Medina got through that danger and was able to take multiple lines of metal.
The copper that was removed likely only netted the thief a few hundred dollars, but the costs to businesses are much higher. The replacement cost quoted to Mundion was about $4,500.
He opted to use a thicker aluminum cable instead. It’s less enticing to thieves, but the bigger deterrent is that this is a well-known threat that appears to be taken seriously.