ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - PNM says a very dangerous crime is on the rise, and it could have sparked a fire at an Albuquerque business this week.
On Wednesday, The Hallgren Company found out copper thieves had struck, and PNM told them what they took could have led to a fire or injured an employee.
“They took our ground wiring from our transformer box to the building,” Rachelle Akers said. “We were running straight positive electricity here.”
Akers said they first noticed something was wrong just after lunch when a calculator fried up, and then the lights started flickering.
PNM officials told the company if they had started work in the warehouse it could have sparked a fire.
“If any of our heavy equipment would have been going, like our welder in the back, they think that definitely the building would have caught on fire,” Akers said. “I think he had to go to a delivery and that's the only reason we didn't turn on the equipment in the back.”
PNM cut off power to the business that afternoon until the problem was fixed. But the door and frame company was not the only hit in that area this week.
Akers said they found out three of their neighbors were also hit by copper thieves.
PNM spokesperson Susan Sponar said they would all be added to a long list of victims.
“Just this last year, we've had over 100 customers who've been victimized by copper thieves,” Sponar said.
Sponar said a few months ago this type of crime was actually decreasing; recently they've seen a spike.
When the thieves take the ground wire its an even bigger concern for not only businesses but homeowners too.
“If you are unaware that equipment has been vandalized you may a threat of electrocution or fire,” Sponar said.
The Hallgren Company said PNM officials told them the locks on transformer boxes of almost all of the businesses in their area were cut off. But some companies were not hit because they didn't have copper wiring inside.
The Hallgren Company replaced the copper wiring with aluminum, which is not as valuable. They're also increasing security measures in and around the building.
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