Latest underwater cable cut far less mysterious

There's been another underwater cable cut, only this one was in Maine - not the Middle East - and it looks less like terrorism than what's becoming an all-too-common domestic crime: copper theft.

Vandalism remains an option as police continue their investigation, but the area where this happened has seen 44 reports of copper theft over the past two years.

From The Times Record of Brunswick, Maine:

Phone service was restored to some 300 Verizon customers Tuesday afternoon, about 36 hours after an underwater cable was damaged between Bailey Island and Stover's Cove in South Harpswell. Cumberland County Sheriff's detectives are investigating the incident as either vandalism or theft of copper wire.

"Based upon the information we have so far, I would say that it was intentional, but the intent would be the question - whether to interrupt phone service or to steal the copper wire, " Cumberland County Detective Sgt. Jim Estabrook said Wednesday. Estabrook estimated the cost to repair the wire, between parts and labor, could reach $15,000.

While the cable in question is mostly buried under the sea floor, a portion is exposed at low tide, according to the newspaper report.

News headlines have been filled with ever more such stories as of late as the price of copper continues to escalate, witness this whopper from Durham, N.C., that saw thieves cart off some 5,000 pounds of copper wiring - right off the poles.

Personally, I caught a glimpse of the motivation behind this crime wave when a plumber doing work at my house recently asked if I wouldn't mind letting him dispose of a fist-sized piece of copper fixture he had yanked from under my sink. While I suspected right off why he wanted the scrap, I asked anyway:

"Hey, at the prices we get for this ... every little bit is worth taking."

At least he asked before taking.

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