Copper theft leads to power outage for over 5,000 in Kingston

Kingstonist file photo.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated since it was originally published at 1:06 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023. Please see bottom of article for most recently updated information.

As the issue of copper theft has grown steadily across the Kingston region, one such case of larceny saw more than just metal disappear when the thievery led to a widespread power outage in Kingston’s west end.

On the afternoon of Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023, hundreds of households in Kingston suddenly went dark, as Hydro One customers in the city’s west end lost power at approximately 3 p.m. In response to Kingstonist inquiries, the utility provider said that “over 5,000 customers” experienced the outage.

Screen captured image of the Hydro One outage map on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023.

But while the outage was unexpected, the cause of it was something that Kingston residents have become all too familiar with over the past year or so. According to Hydro One, “electrical equipment was vandalized and a small amount of grounding copper was removed from a pole.”

Power was restored for all affected customers by 4:15 p.m., Hydro One said, disclosing that the vandalism and theft occurred at a utility pole on Gardiners Road, close to the company’s Gardiners Transmission Station.

“We understand how difficult it is to be without power and we thank our customers for their patience as crews work as quickly and as safely as possible to restore power,” Tiziana Baccega Rosa, Senior Media Relations Advisor for Hydro One, said in an email to Kingstonist.

“In addition to causing outages, copper thieves put themselves, along with employees, first responders and potentially the public at risk of severe injuries and death.”

Indeed, the incident in question itself led to electrical arcing, as captured in a video taken at a substation in Kingston’s west end.

Video by Cody Stafford-Arenburg/Kingstonist.

At their most recent meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2023, Kingston City Council voted in favour of a new motion brought forward by Mayor Bryan Paterson, which sought to see the City institute regulations around scrap metal yards and the purchasing of scrap metal, among other things aimed at addressing metal thefts. This came after vandalism and theft at the landfill site at Belle Park ended up costing the City of Kingston over $1.5 million, as well as a local salvage yard flagging a proposed sale to police resulting in the return of metal bleachers stolen from Loyalist Township — all of which led to a tense discussion on the rising prevalence of metal theft at the September 21, 2023, meeting of the Kingston Police Services Board.

Hydro One asks members of the public who may witness a metal/equipment theft crime in progress – or any sort of suspicious activity involving critical infrastructure – to contact 911, local police (Kingston Police can be reached at 613-549-4660 ext. 0), or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

Kingstonist has inquired with both Hydro One and Kingston Police as to whether there is an ongoing investigation into the theft/vandalism of the Hydro One infrastructure. No response was received by time of publication. This article will be updated if/when more information becomes available.

Update (Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023):
Kingston Police have confirmed that the incident of vandalism and theft that led to a widespread power outage in the city’s west end on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023, was reported to police the same day.

“Police are actively investigating this incident,” Constable Ash Gutheinz, Media Relations Officer for Kingston Police, said in an email.

Investigating officers are asking anyone who may have information on this incident to contact Kingston Police at 613-549-4660 ext. 0, or to submit an online report on the Kingston Police website.

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