As long as metal prices remain high, phone companies and their customers are going to suffer. Thats because thieves are making it a regular practice to steal telephone wire, separate the copper from the line and sell it to scrap-metal dealers for cash.
Theres even a police unit in the Atlanta area dedicated to metal theft, called the Southeast Metal Task Force. A recent outbreak in that city has cut service to homes, schools, businesses you name it. As many as 7,000 residential customers lost power due to a three-day stretch of theft. AT&T claims there were 11 such crimes in one suburban Atlanta city in just one week. The carrier is offering up to $3,000 for information that could lead to an arrest.
The crime is obviously a safety issue if phone service is out and someone cant call 9-1-1 in an emergency. But its an even greater danger to the daring thieves, who risk life and limb pursing overhead phone lines that often run right next to live power lines.
Telephone-line theft is a felony in Georgia. AT&T says each of the recent thefts did more than $500 in damage.
How can you help? If you see someone on a utility pole who isnt wearing telephone company uniform or hasnt parked a company truck nearby, call police.