From staff reports
The Meridian Star
Thieves are again after copper telephone cable, which is necessary for communications to stay up and running.
AT&T announced on Tuesday that it is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the thefts of AT&T copper telephone cables that have occurred in Lauderdale County Meridian. The steady rise in the market price of copper over the last few years and the state of the economy has led some thieves to extreme measures, including stealing copper cables from facilities and telephone poles, according to C.D. Smith, Regional Director, AT&T Mississippi.
"It's been going on since around April," Smith said. "It's not about the cost but it's about the interruption of service and the potential of an emergency call that can't get through because some culprit has decided to steal the copper cable. The motivation is certainly the copper but what thieves don't realize is that this is a public safety issue."
It is a federal offense, he added, punishable by jail time.
"We feel it is appropriate to identify the culprits and take appropriate action," he said.
AT&T is working with law enforcement agencies and scrap metal dealers in the county to catch those responsible for multiple thefts, he said. AT&T urges anyone with information on the recent thefts of its copper cables to call Crimestoppers to begin the investigation process and possibly claim the reward. Successful tipsters will remain anonymous.
Smith says most copper thieves clip overhead telephone cables in the overnight hours. If a citizen sees any of the following, call 911 — it’s a possible cable theft:
• Anyone climbing or loitering around a telephone pole without an AT&T uniform. AT&T technicians do not work alone, and never in pitch darkness. AT&T repair crews have lights and equipment when repairing lines after dark.
• All AT&T trucks, including bucket trucks, are clearly branded. Any other pickup trucks or vans are not carrying AT&T crews.
• Small fires burning in rural areas, with an acrid, “rubber” smell and giving off black smoke. This may indicate thieves are burning the sheathing from the cable.
Any citizen with knowledge of persons involved in copper theft can report information confidentially to Crimestoppers at (601) 485-1860. In addition to the AT&T reward, Crimestoppers may have additional reward money.
Only one reward will be given per person who calls in a tip that leads to an arrest and conviction. Individuals cannot receive additional reward money for multiple tips or convictions. The reward offer expires Dec. 31 of this year.