GASTONIA, NC -- One Duke Energy substation has been targeted by copper thieves at least three times in the past month. According to Gastonia Police Department records, thieves hit the Hunt Avenue facility January 7, January 3, and December 17.
Police reports estimate the copper's worth to be approximately $120,000.
The substation is located behind an empty mill on a dead-end street. Neighbors say there's too little security around it, so it’s a haven for criminals.
"They just cut the fence, walk right in and take it," said neighbor Charles Street.
There are two layers of fencing around the substation. But it appears it’s been cut and patched in the past. Pieces of barbed wire are missing from the top of the fence.
A Duke spokesperson wouldn't offer specifics about whether company will increase the security measures at the Hunt Avenue substation.
"We've taken a number of steps at all substations and our equipment, but it takes all of us to stop these criminals," said spokesperson Paige Layne.
Charles Street worries the thefts end up hurting the consumers in their monthly bills.
"Higher power bills, or higher insurance, either way," he said.
Layne said indirectly customers do pay for the thefts, comparing it to grocery shoppers who pay more because of shoplifters, but added customer rate increases are based on the construction of power-delivery systems.
Duke Energy says it's pushing for tougher penalties for people who steal copper wiring.