AT&T workers replaced the stolen line along Darling Road in Cuddy Valley.
State Agencies Warn of Havoc Caused by Metal Thefts
• Mail Boxes Also Vandalized on Cuddy Road
Reported by John Canada, Patric Hedlund and Don Eubank
In the wee hours of Monday, April 28, thieves cut and stole the telephone wire that runs down Darling Road from Cuddy Valley Road. Attempts to contact residents by phone resulted in a frustrating cycle of AT&T recordings or unanswered rings. Residents of the valley were unable to make land-line calls, although cell phones and wireless internet did work in some areas.
According to AT&T’s Brian Kirschenman, the installation and repair technician for this area, "This is the second time in less than a week. We had 1000 feet of cable stolen off of Gorman Post Road Wednesday night. This one was probably done in the wee hours of Monday." The Gorman Post Road line was stolen once before, about a year ago.
On Tuesday, April 29, officials for CalTrans and other state agencies held a press conference warning the public of "metal thieves" who are stealing wire from public electricity, cable television and telephone infrastructure to strip it for copper, which can currently be sold for elevated prices. (Read a story from February 17, 2007 about ‘Bright n’ Shiny’ Copper Thieves Nabbed in Lebec)
The result is, for instance, expanses of public roadway, such as on freeway ramps, on which lights go dark, and are often staying dark because of the expense of replacing wiring to remote regions.
Kirschenman says he wants the public to help catch the thieves: "Keep your eyes open. If you are going to work early, if you see a pickup truck and workers using flashlights, if you see cable down or hanging, that is a sign. If you see people late at night—2, 3, 4 in the morning—out working and not using a lot of light as if they are trying to not draw attention to themselves, call the sheriff."
He explained that "if AT&T is out we will have an enormous amount of lighting and logos on our trucks." He said the thieves are in some cases going up on the poles to cut the wire. In other cases, such as an incident at the base of the Grapevine, thieves have actually cut down the poles to steal the wire.
"Last July they stole ‘four hundred pair’ cable that put the whole town of Gorman out of service. Our crew was out all night trying to get that repaired," he said, adding, "I don’t think they are done. I think they’ll target Lockwood Valley next. It is important for citizens to be aware."
Sgt. Bryan Armendariz of the Kern County Sheriff’s Office substation agreed.
"We have a rural crimes task force that we send these reports to. This would fall under their umbrella. Senior Deputy Kevin George will do the local follow up."
He said "things to watch out for are people driving late at night with large amounts of cable in the back. Get a license plate number if you can. Lots of time they will burn the insulation off the cable…if a neighbor sees something burning or lots of wire insulation lying around, call us." Armendariz added that although they like to have a name, you don’t have to give it if you don’t want to. Just let us know if there is something you think we should be checking out," he said.
John "Rocky" Canada who assists deliveries for a contract mail service to Pinon Pines discovered that three mail boxes on Cuddy Valley Road were broken into at roughly the same time as the cable thefts.
He said a prying tool had been used to loosen the doors and break the boxes open.
Sgt. Armendariz said the theft of mail is reported to the U.S. Postal Service and is a federal crime. He also reports that residential mailbox tampering has become widespread in the Bakersfield area. It is not a strictly rural crime.
"They’ve been advertising every day that IRS rebate checks are coming in the mail this month…it’s like an invitation to thieves," he said.
Currently, he recommends that residents avoid sending checks and sensitive mail from their rural mailboxes.
This is part of the May 02, 2008 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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