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Copper wire thefts spike in Stockton

AT&T offers reward for information; Lodi still safe from thefts

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Posted: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 12:00 am

Authorities in San Joaquin County are trying to combat a recent spike in copper wire thefts. The problem has become so severe that AT&T is offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction.

“We’re hoping the reward will motivate people in the Stockton and in the Central Valley to be alert and to pay close attention to any suspicious people who appear to be working on or trying to cut down AT&T wire network cables,” said Robert Ruiz, AT&T’s regional manager for network services in the Central Valley, in a statement. “We are working with law enforcement to make sure those responsible are apprehended and prosecuted.”

All recent thefts have occurred in and around Stockton. But police say Lodi has been victimized multiple times in the past.

“It’s been going on a long time,” Lodi Police Lt. Bill Alexander said. “They steal it to make a quick buck.”

Since March, there have been more than 35 thefts of copper wire from AT&T networks, with the most recent heists occurring last week, said Alex Carey, AT&T director of news relations.

“Other carriers are being affected, too,” said Carey, who didn’t want to say how much money this problem has cost AT&T.

Thieves are using numerous methods to strip the wire, including digging underground until they find the copper lines, Carey said.

This recent string of thefts has affected thousands of customers, not only in Stockton, but in other cities in California where AT&T is offering rewards.

San José and Santa Clara have both been frequent targets for thieves, and AT&T is working with the FBI and the Santa Clara Sheriff’s Office to solve a recent wire heist.

In April, thieves shut down power to much of the San José area after cutting fiber optic cables and stealing a substantial amount of copper wire.

AT&T is offering a $250,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in connection with the San José incident.

Meanwhile, in Lodi, police haven’t received any copper wire theft reports since late last year, according to Lodi Police Sgt. Steve Maynard.

He said thieves typically target abandoned buildings, and they usually live in the towns they target.

“Just because it’s happening in Stockton doesn’t mean it’s moving up to us,” Maynard said. “Stockton has its copper thieves, and we have our copper thieves. It’s so easy to steal that they don’t need to go far to find it.”

AT&T asks anyone with information about recent copper wire thefts to call 800-807-4205.

Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at krisa@lodinews.com.

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