Surveillance cams help police nab copper thieves

Tuesday March 5, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- Two men will be in court later this month, accused of stealing several hundred pounds of copper wire from a utility substation in Newfane in September 2012.

According to a press release from the Vermont State Police, Russell A. Buzby, 46, of Newfane, and James D. Nestor Jr., 45, of Bennington, have been cited with grand larceny, unlawful trespass and unlawful mischief.

Under questioning, the two men admitted to the theft, stated the press release, which netted them $736 from a scrapyard. The cost to repair the substation, which was part of the Southern Loop upgrades put in place by the Vermont Electric Power Company, was $6,600. The cost included the replacement of the wire and the staff hours required to install and make any other repairs, said Kerrick Johnson, spokesman for Velco.

According to police, the investigation was aided by the use of surveillance video that was recorded during the theft.

"There are cameras already at several of our facilities, such as Newfane, and we are on course to have video and other more sophisticated security measures in place statewide in the near future," said Johnson.

He wouldn’t explain what "other more sophisticated security measures" are, but said "The world has changed."

"The main reason we have installed protective measures is to protect against those with malicious intent who want to hurt the grid," said Johnson. "Society has never before been as dependent on reliability. It’s a complex, dangerous world and we take seriously those who threaten the reliability of the grid."

According to police, the theft occurred on Sept. 16, 2012, at approximately 8 p.m.

Johnson said the theft did damage to the substation, but Velco constructs and operates the local grid in such a fashion that it can withstand certain limited disturbances and service interruptions.

"In isolation, this particular incident didn’t cause a huge problem," he said.

However, if this theft had occurred at some other time, such as when a line was down for maintenance or repair, it could have caused a serious service interruption, said Johnson.

"The problem here is not only are they putting themselves at risk through their own foolhardiness, but in this case all ratepayers end up having to pay to fix it and it makes the grid that much less reliable," said Johnson. "Clearly one of the benefits of the surveillance equipment we are installing is it’s a tool to help fight and help deter this type of crime. However, one of the main drivers of these types of tools is to protect system reliability from these types of property crimes."

He also said companies such as Velco, law enforcement personnel and scrapyards must work together to insure there is no market for copper wire such as that stolen from the substation.

Bob Audette can be reached at, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.


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