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SEPTA, PATCO Dealing With Surge of Copper Thefts From Rail Lines

(Septa has installed tamper-resistant covers over some of its copper switches and similar equipment.  Photo provided by Septa)

(Septa has installed tamper-resistant covers over some of its copper switches and similar equipment. Photo provided by Septa)

Mark Abrams Mark Abrams
Mark Abrams is a versatile part of the KYW Newsradio family, serving...
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By Mark Abrams

CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — A rash of copper thefts from along regional train lines in South Jersey and Philadelphia and have spurred PATCO and SEPTA into action.

It’s becoming a chronic problem, causing occasional train delays, and officials say they’re taking steps to stop it.

But PATCO’s Tim Ireland says that although copper thefts cause switching problems and delays for passengers, the rail operator is also very concerned about the thieves who don’t realize the risk.

“They can pick up a cable that might have live current running through it. That could kill them or injure them seriously,” Ireland notes. “The other thing they can do is end up touching the third rail, which is the power rail on the tracks. That pretty much would instantly incinerate anybody who did it.”

SEPTA’s Jeri Williams says the number of copper thefts are down on the Regional Rails because they’re securing the switches.

“We’re actually using what they call ‘impedance bonds’ over the switches. It’s much more difficult to take those bonds off to get to the copper,” she tells KYW Newsradio.

SEPTA has also stepped up patrols, and has caught thieves in the act.

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