For the second time in six months, AT&T is looking for information about people vandalizing its aerial copper telephone cables, but this time it is offering a cash reward for information leading to the responsible parties’ arrest and conviction.
The company announced Monday that it is offering a $3,000 reward in connection with thefts that have occurred recently in Whitley County, Kentucky, and Campbell County, Tenn., particularly in Williamsburg, Jellico and Lafollette.
"We’ve seen several incidents over the past month, and we are seeing cases of this occurring in Whitley County and Campbell County, Tenn.," said AT&T spokesperson Cathy Lewandowski.
"People are doing this for financial gain, but it is very dangerous. We encourage folks in your community, if they have a tip and would like to assist us, we would appreciate that."
The steady rise in the market price of copper over the last few years and the state of the economy has led some people to extreme measures, including stealing copper cables from houses and telephone poles, the company said in a press release.
AT&T is working with law enforcement agencies and scrap metal dealers in the Jellico area to catch those responsible for several thefts that have occurred in the past several weeks.
"We are also working with recycling and scrap metal dealers to make them aware of the problem, and encouraging them to report anyone attempting to turn in stolen copper," Lewandowski said.
In late October, thieves stole thousands of dollars worth of copper wire from area communication towers, including those belonging to 911, Kentucky State Police, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Williamsburg Police Department, and several telephone and cell phone companies among others.
Williamsburg Police Chief Wayne Bird estimated last month that at least seven towers had been struck in Whitley County, plus several towers in the London area.
"It appears what they did on the radio towers was cut all the ground cables, which makes the towers real susceptible to lightening strikes," Bird said. "This copper theft is getting out of control."
AT&T’s reward will be paid only if an arrest is made in the AT&T cases by Nov. 30, 2010.
"We are hoping that folks will see that and knowing they have a week or so might be able to cash in on that reward if there are some tips if it leads to conviction and arrest," Lewandowski said.
"When people steal cable, customers can experience a temporary loss of service. In each case though, we have quickly restored service."
AT&T urges shop owners, employees and anyone with information on the recent copper thefts to call AT&T Asset Protection at 1 (800) 807-4205.
"AT&T is taking this matter very seriously," said Alan Hill, regional director, AT&T Tennessee. "We are working with local law enforcement to ensure that those responsible for the crimes are apprehended."
In June, the company also asked for the public’s assistance following a rash of vandalism and thefts of its cables in the Highway 92 area of Whitley County.