Two recent copper thefts have prompted the police in Wichita, Kan., to ask the public for help. In an uncommon request, police have asked anyone who sees what appears to be a utility crew working nearby — especially in a parking lot, park, or other public area — to call 911. Police have evidence to indicate the thieves are posting as utility crews in hard hats and perhaps even coats or jackets with a company name on them. “We need the public to be alert to this issue,” says Capt. Darrell Haynes. “That’s the only way we’re going to be making headway here.”

Recently, thieves cut into the perimeter fence of a Westar Energy substation and took what the report calls “a major quantity” of braided copper wire that served as a ground for the fence. The cost for repairs, including replacing the stolen material, came to $5,000. It was the second theft at that substation in the past several weeks. The last one was in December and resulted in losses and damage of about $5,000. Westar officials are looking into installing motion detection equipment and video cameras at each of its more than 20 substations in the Wichita metropolitan area.