Three Copper Thefts at SESCO Substations: One Suspect Arrested and Another Believed Injured

KUCHING, THURSDAY, 5 JANUARY 2017:  Sarawak Energy retail and operations arm Syarikat SESCO Sdn Bhd (SESCO) recorded three cases of copper theft at its substations; one in Kuching and two in Bintulu in the span of five days, resulting in extensive equipment damage estimated to cost around RM790,000. It is believed that at least one suspect was injured in carrying out the crime.

In Kuching, the incident happened on New Year’s Eve at the Sejingkat 33kV substation. The alarm was triggered when the substation tripped during an attempt to steal the busbar at the supply feeder. It is suspected that the thief or thieves broke into the substation by cutting the chain link fencing. 

Blood stains were found at the scene leading investigators to conclude that the thief or thieves were injured in the theft attempt. A police report was made and repair work to the damaged equipment was done immediately to ensure uninterrupted supply to customers. 

In Bintulu, on the morning of 1st January at the Tanjung Kidurong 33kV substation, a suspect was caught red-handed by SESCO staff carrying a sack of copper conductors and earthing bars out from the substation. The incident was captured through CCTV and the suspect was handed over to the police for further investigation. 

The latest incident took place on Wednesday when the UPM 33kV Substation was broken into and vandalised causing a power outage affecting some 2,500 customers in areas including Mile 5 and Sebauh. Several critical equipment had either been stolen or damaged and a police report was also lodged.

According to Hajah Siti Aisah Adenan, Sarawak Energy’s Vice President for Distribution, copper theft is a criminal activity that is dangerous and can result in serious injury or even death.

“Since 2015, there have been 374 cases of vandalism and copper theft targeted at our electrical facilities. Most of the time, this has resulted in power outage, causing inconvenience to the people living in the surrounding areas. This can also cause damage to customers' electrical appliances,” she said of the impact of theft from substations on customers.  

“In addition to power outages, this irresponsible act can also cause equipment failure and unstable voltage. We have spent more than RM 1.3 million to replace the stolen and damaged equipment in the last two years,” she elaborated.

Siti Aisah highlighted the risk of stealing cables from the power system.

“This is not just illegal but can be potentially deadly. It truly saddens us when we discover a serious injury or fatality caused by electrocution at substations. To curb this dangerous crime and prevent further inconvenience to the people, we will continue to enhance the security of our facilities and work closely with police,” added Siti Aisah. 

“We thank members of the public and the relevant authorities for the assistance and cooperation so far. We will continue with our efforts to increase the awareness of the dangers of such activities and seek greater cooperation from members of the public,” she concluded. 

Members of the public can help by reporting any suspicious activities or individuals lurking near electrical equipment or facilities by contacting Sarawak Energy Customer Care Centre at 1-300-88-3111. Incidents can also be logged into Sarawak Energy’s “SEB Cares” Mobile App, available for download at Apple’s App Store for iOS and Google’s Play Store for Android.

Switchgear compartments with components stolen at Tg. Kidurong substation

Thieves broke into Sejingkat substation by cutting the chain link fencing

Rear entrance to switchgear damaged by thieves at Tg. Kidurong substation

Cables stolen from the switchyard at Sejingkat substation

The 11kV switchgear cable box panel forced open and its earthing bar stolen at the UPM 33kV Substation in Bintulu.