Copper Theft on the Rise in the Permian Basin

By: Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

Oil fields across all of West Texas are a little bit emptier and thieves are nabbing everything from oil and gas equipment to copper wiring. As NewsWest 9 found out, it's not just affecting the energy companies - it's pinching your pockets.

"When the price is high you have theft, when the price is low, you have theft," Chief Deputy Ed Krevit, Energy Security Council and Midland County Deputy, said.

Right now, just about all West Texas law enforcement have been busy hunting down burglars in our oil fields, wind turbine sites, and even air conditioning companies.

"I stay very busy because all the agencies in the Permian Basin - we all exchange information and we try to get that disseminated, so I stay very busy," Krevit said.

NewsWest 9 tracked down quite a few officials to get the most recent crime stats. The Midland County Sheriff told NewsWest 9, this is a daily battle. Over in Hobbs, Police say the past two months have been flooded with oil field investigations.

Ector, Andrews, and Ward counties say there are no major investigations right now. But when theft spikes, the FBI Task Force pitches in.

But officials in Gaines County say about once every three days, there's another burglary.
It's pulling deputies off the streets and out to the oil fields.

And on Tuesday night, Martin County officials are on the hunt for crooks suspected of snagging $8,000 worth of copper wiring.

"It's readily accessible and the value is starting to go up," Deputy Krevit said.

Energy companies lose serious cash when their equipment isn't pumping and you pay for it every time you fill up. Deputies say the two main reasons behind the theft are narcotics and angry employees who lost their jobs when the economy tanked.

"People involved in this type of crime, they don't stay in one location," Deputy Krevit said. "They could be in Texas today, they could be in Colorado tomorrow."

That's why Texas became the springboard for the Energy Security Council, an organization that tracks down crooks even after they've crossed state lines.