- The company saw 827 instances of cable theft within its concession area in the Metropolitan Region, which represents an increase of nearly 10% over the 759 cases the previous year. These crimes, committed by third parties, adversely affected more than 266,000 Enel Distribución customers.
- The community most impacted was Santiago Centro, followed by Recoleta and Providencia. As a result, it is estimated that around 68 tons of electric cables were stolen, equivalent to 64 kilometers of electricity lines.
Santiago, January 16, 2024 – Electric cable theft, particularly for the purpose of extracting copper, is a criminal practice that has been on the rise during recent years. During 2023, Enel Distribución reported 827 cases within its concession zone in the Chilean capital, representing an increase from the 759 cases reported the previous year. Between January and December 2023, around 68 tons of electric cables were stolen, which is equivalent to over 64 kilometers of electricity lines.
This also meant that the company had to spend $2.9 billion CLP to address outages and replace cables.
The community most affected by cable theft in 2023 was Santiago Centro, with 351 cases reported, followed by Recoleta with 188, and Providencia with 48. As a result, the company estimates that the theft of low- and medium-voltage cables had a negative impact on over 266,000 customers.
“We are concerned about the rise in electric cable theft, not just because it affects the quality of our electricity service to the community, but because these are criminal acts that imply a serious risk to the people involved, including the residents of our concession zone, our field workers, and even the thieves themselves. As a company, we cannot directly avoid this type of crime, but we are taking action to protect our facilities and keep the communication lines open with the authorities. We believe it is important to implement a specific law aimed at preventing the buying and selling of copper taken from cable theft, and that those involved are held accountable for the negative consequences provoked,” explains Víctor Tavera, CEO of Enel Distribución.
Cable theft affects the continuity and stability of the electricity supply by causing fluctuations in voltage, service interruptions, and electrical discharges that seriously endanger electrodependent customers. Additionally, it poses a risk to the technical personnel responsible for maintaining distribution networks and those involved in such criminal activities. In fact, during 2023, four people died while trying to commit these illegal acts.
When these types of situations occur, the safety protections of the network are automatically activated, cutting off the power immediately upon detecting such accidents. However, the high intensity of the electrical discharge is often fatal for those manipulating the lines since they often lack the necessary knowledge or protections.
Actions taken by the company
To try to reduce the impact of these incidents, Enel Distribución maintains direct communication with various municipalities and the Carabineros de Chile. Additionally, the company participates in a working group with authorities specifically focused on this issue.
From a legal perspective, the company actively engages in the investigation of these crimes, providing evidence to identify the perpetrators. Over the last 12 months, Enel Distribución has filed 430 lawsuits and reports related to this offense and provided evidence to aid in its criminal prosecution. In fact, thanks to these efforts, five convictions were made in the last six months, ranging from 61 days of probation to cases where the accused has been sentenced to 541 days of effective imprisonment.
Furthermore, to safeguard its facilities, the company has a plan for repairing, sealing, and replacing the covers for medium and low-voltage chambers to prevent criminal activities. This is in addition to existing measures such as an electronic monitoring system and access control to vaults, among others.
Finally, Enel Distribución conducts awareness campaigns through its digital communication channels and mass media to inform about the risks associated with cable theft. It emphasizes that it is a crime committed by third parties that seriously endangers the lives of the individuals involved, maintenance technicians, as well as the residents of the neighboring communities. For anonymous reports, the company urges community members to contact the call center at 600 696 00 00.