It's a crime that temporarily cripples phone companies and puts customers in jeopardy in the event of an emergency, but rarely is anyone held accountable.
It was a different story, however, in St. Clair, Mo., this week, where four men were busted for a phone-cable theft spree that lasted for several months. Police say the men, ranging in age from 23 to 39, were stealing sections of cable as short as 30 feet and as long as 700 feet. They were cutting lines down, then burning off the plastic coating and selling the copper to recycling plants, KTVI-TV of St. Louis reported.
AT&T said it lost $140,000 due to the thefts. As the price of precious metals has risen over the past few years, so has the frequency of this crime. Many phone companies have begun offering rewards for information that leads to the arrests and convictions of suspects. But it's often a hard case for authorities to crack.
Copper theft is a dangerous business for perpetrators who often work close to power lines in order to cut the lines. It also puts landline customers in danger if they have an emergency and they find they have no phone service.
The suspects were arrested on March 1 and held on $35,000 bail.
Follow senior online managing editor @Craig_Galbraith on Twitter.