About 300 people lost phone service last Friday when communication wires were cut in the Richmond Hill area.
Police were notified by Telus of the problem after an alarm was triggered at 9:30 a.m. Two Hope RCMP officers intercepted a vehicle leaving the scene within minutes. Two of the four suspects were arrested in the vehicle, while police dog services tracked down the other two. The RCMP found cutting tools and copper wire in the vehicle.
A 51-year-old man and his 23-year-old son, along with another 23-year-old man and 54-year-old woman were arrested for alleged mischief. All four suspects are from Nanaimo and were released on a promise to appear in court on April 30.
Hope RCMP launched an initiative last February to combat the region’s wire theft problem. Several alarms and cameras were installed on communication wires in priority areas. Staff Sgt. Suki Manj said Friday’s attempted wire theft was the first incident in over a year.
“Richmond Hill used to be the area that used to get hit all the time because you can literally walk up there and cut the wires,” he said. “This is just another tool the bad guys don’t know about or even if they do know about it, they forget about it. In this case, the aggravating factor is that there was 300 people without essential phone service during that period which is a concern for police for safety reasons.”
When communication cables are tampered with, customers can lose service for up to 48 hours while the damage is repaired. Technicians work to get service restored as quickly as possible, but they often have to replace hundreds of metres of cable. During this time residents are unable to make phone calls, including 911.
“When someone steals our cable, they are potentially putting our customers’ lives at risk,” said Telus spokesperson Shawn Hall. “We are engaged in several creative efforts with police forces to try and make it more difficult for thieves to steal the material. We really appreciate just how seriously police forces have been taking this issue. It’s really helped make a difference.”
In the first half of 2012, Telus had well over 250 wire thefts provincewide, most of which were in the Lower Mainland. However, Hall said the company had less than 50 incidents after the provincial government introduced legislation in July to curb the sale of stolen metal.
Residents who notice suspicious activity in their neighbourhood or tampering of wires are asked to immediately contact the Hope RCMP at 604-869-7750.