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AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Officials with Central Maine Power Company say they have experienced an increase in thefts of copper wire from their power substations in recent weeks.

"The perpetrators of these crimes are putting themselves at huge risk for electrical contact, burns, serious injury or even death," cautioned CMP spokesperson, Gail Rice. "It is obviously a huge concern to us."

Rice says the thieves are not only putting themselves at risk, but also endanger power crews who may not notice things are out of place and be injured by electrified equipment. She says the damage caused by the thefts can be substantial and even result in power outages.

"There are huge costs in many different ways, and these people need to understand that they are putting themselves in danger, they are often putting the public in danger, and our crews, and they more than likely will get caught eventually," Rice stated.

She says CMP continues to enhance its security measures in an effort to better identify intruders and is working closely with law enforcement agencies to catch the people responsible.

"I have no idea how anybody would dare go into a power substation, where you have thousands and thousands of volts of electricity going through there and not knowing what you are doing, and cutting wires left and right," said Winslow Police Chief, Shawn O'Leary. "That's crazy!"

Chief O'Leary says they have had a rash of copper thefts reported in central Maine. He says his detectives have been investigating the thefts, and as a result of a joint investigation with Waterville Police, were able to identify 30 year old Michael Grant of Skowhegan as a suspect in five thefts.

He says Oakland Police stopped Grant's car on Monday as he was headed to sell some of the stolen copper wire at a metal recycling facility. They arrested him for violating his probation and for operating after suspension. A search warrant was executed and he was interviewed by detectives, who charged him with Aggravated Criminal Mischief and Felony Theft in connection with copper thefts from CMP substations in Winslow, Waterville, Augusta, Farmingdale and Windsor.

"At this point, we don't believe Mr. Grant is involved in any other CMP thefts, but we are continuing our investigation," stated O'Leary.

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