Bumbling Kitsap County thieves steal wrong kind of wire

PORT ORCHARD, Wash. -- Thieves in Kitsap County went to a whole lot of trouble stealing something that cops say isn't worth a dime. In spite of that, the victim -- Comcast Cable -- is offering an unusual reward to smoke out the thieves.

It happened Monday at 2 a.m. The thieves opened an underground cable vault along a stretch of rural road in south Kitsap County. Inside was cable, fiber optic cable, owned by Comcast.

The thieves sliced the line in that first vault, immediately cutting off all service -- cable, phone, internet -- to about 2,600 Comcast customers. About 200 feet away the thieves accessed a second underground vault and cut the same cable there. Then they pulled all 200 feet of the cable out, hoping for a big pay day.

It's the kind of theft Kitsap Sheriff Spokesman, Deputy Scott Wilson, says they've seen a lot of.

"There has been such a proliferation of metal thefts so they could turn them into metal dealers so they could go buy drugs," he said.

The only problem is what these thieves stole is fiber optic cable, made of thin strands of glass: no metal at all.

"They probably were thinking that it's copper," says Comcast Spokesman Steve Kipp. "Copper is worth something, but fiber optic is largely worthless on the open market."

According to the Kitsap Sheriff's Office report, Comcast estimated it could cost anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 to repair, making this a serious felony if the thieves are caught.

"It's not worth the effort, guys," adds Deputy Wilson. "It's going to be of absolutely no value to you and all you're doing is wasting your time and your effort."

But with so many customers out of service for several hours, Comcast really wants to catch these thieves.

"It's an unusual theft and so we thought we'd come up with an unusual reward," Kipp said.

So for anyone with information leading to the arrest of the fiber optic crooks, Comcast promises either two free years of complete cable, phone, and internet service or $5,000 -- your choice.

Anyone with a tip for the fiber optic thieves is urged to contact crimestoppers or call 1-800-222-TIPS.