Embarq, a spin-off from Sprint Nextel this week became the latest telecommunications vendor to offer a reward for the buttheads stealing copper communications cables. Embarq is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of anyone stealing the company’s live traffic-carrying cable, primarily copper, in the Las Vegas area.Time Warner Cable recently offered a similar $10,000 reward in Texas, and AT&T is also now offering rewards in several markets across the country. Smaller companies such as Appalachian Power are also offering $5,000 rewards for cable theft information. And the idea will likely grow as theft of copper is a major growing problem in many areas. Telecommunications operator Cable & Wireless (C&W) reported losses of over $40 million due to cable theft last year. Embarq has already spent $400,000 so far this year to repair severed cable lines in Las Vegas. With copper scrap prices getting close to $4 a pound and countries such as China demanding the metal, officials fear the problems will only get worse.So far in Las Vegas more than 60 people have been arrested for copper theft this year. Stealing cable doesn’t come without risks. Aside from the potential for arrest, there have been more than a dozen reports nationwide in recent months of copper thieves being electrocuted while attempting to steal live copper cable.
A few examples of recent crimes include:
· More than 1,000 feet of copper cable was stripped from live Verizon Northwest poles in the Bald Peak area northwest of Newberg, Oregon recently. The crime left 149 households temporarily without phone service.
· Windstream Communications this week said the theft of $10,000 to $15,000 in copper cable has it ready to ready to prosecute and sue for damages.
· A copper theft at a Colton power substation this week led to the electrocution of a man. Anthony Bullard, a 24-year-old Bloomington, Calif. , resident, was found at 4:30 a.m. lying just outside a Southern California Edison substation. San Bernardino County sheriff's investigators suspect he was shocked as he attempted to cut out copper wire within the substation.
· In Alabama: Albertville Police arrested a man on charges of the theft of two large rolls of cable from Charter Communications. Charter reported the theft of two rolls of cable, valued at $1,800, from its storage yard on July 23.
· And not just in the US: A huge power outage in Johannesburg last year was the result of a single, unsuccessful attempt by thieves to steal part of the city's power grid. As with most such attempts, damage to the electricity network is a necessary precursor, since thieves have to create short-circuits and break currents to avoid electrocution.