With new law nearly here, copper wire thieves getting more daring

SNOHOMISH, Wash. -- Thieves are getting more daring in the days before a tougher copper theft law goes into effect, and that has some people worried about what's to come.

John Daly of Frontier Communications said thieves made off with some of his company's copper cabling along a rural road near Snohomish last Friday.

"They cut right here, it comes down and they can pull it back into the woods and where ever and roll it up," he said.

Experts say copper thieves are getting more desperate and daring. Instead of going after exposed thick gauge wire with higher value, some thieves are stealing heavily insulated, lower-value cable TV lines that hang between poles.

Frontier Communications has reported lines being stolen in Snohomish, Skykomish and Granite Falls, causing temporary outages for thousands of customers throughout north King and Snohomish counties.

In the past year, copper wire thieves have targeted Frontier properties 10 times. And it's not just a local problem. Frontier has reported similar thefts throughout the country, with Ohio and West Virginia being hit most often.

The cables are also responsible for Internet connections and some telephone service, and one small cable can serve more than 1,500 customers.

"That cable becomes their lifeline for all sorts of things. In particular, 911. How do you respond to those emergencies?" said Ken Baldwin of Frontier Communications.

Frontier cable technicians drive clearly marked cars, and anyone not wearing identifying clothing seen working on cable lines should be reported to the police.

Concerned over how easy it has been to sell stolen wire, state lawmakers recently approved a new, tougher copper wire theft law.

The law, which takes effect next week, is intended to make it easier to track thieves trying to sell the copper.