Phone company spokeswoman Sue Sperry said Thursday that AT&T officials are concerned about what they call “a rash of” copper theft that has targeted company phone lines in sparsely populated areas of McClellan.
Over the past couple of months, thieves have on multiple occasions cut down phone wires for their copper cores, Sperry said.
She noted work stations and remote terminals controlled by AT&T in the McClellan area have also been broken into.
“It’s gotten to be such a serious problem that we’re offering a reward,” Sperry told The Star Thursday. “We’ve had good success in catching these criminals in the past by offering a reward.”
AT&T officials are offering the reward to those who call Anniston police with tips about the thefts and property damage.
Lt. Rocky Stemen said police have taken two reports about people stealing AT&T telephone wires in the McClellan area — both in early April.
On two different occasions, someone stole 250 feet of telephone wire valued at $2500 and then 400 feet of wire valued at $2600 in the 3700 block of Summerall Terrace, Stemen said.
Both times, the wire was stripped directly from utility poles.
Stemen said the high price that scrap yards are paying for copper is driving thefts like these.
Currently, local scrap yards are paying between $3.10 and $3.20 for scrap copper. That’s 35 cents more than what sellers could get for the scrap metal six months ago and nearly twice as much as the $1.65 copper was selling for in fall 2008.
AT&T isn’t the only company that’s been affected locally, Stemen said.
Police are also investigating reports of break-ins at Alabama Power’s lot in downtown Anniston.
The 10th Street site has fallen prey to multiple break-ins resulting in the theft of $8400 in copper in April, Stemen said.
As far as AT&T goes, Sperry said her company hopes the allure of a reward will encourage people to provide anonymous information that will result in stopping the thefts.
“Fort McClellan is not a highly populated area, but there are still people who are affected by interruptions to phone service,” Sperry said.
Although attempts to locate a McClellan resident or business whose phone service had been affected by the thefts were unsuccessful Thursday, Sperry said AT&T has received calls from people whose phone lines have failed because of the cut wires.
“It’s a cost to the public,” Sperry said.
People who wish to provide anonymous tips about the copper thefts at McClellan should call the Anniston Police Department at 256-238-1800.
Only one reward will be given per person who calls in a tip that leads to an arrest and a conviction, a press release from AT&T noted. The reward offer will expire June 20.
Stemen said Thursday police had no suspects in the copper cases at McClellan or the ones involving Alabama Power.
Star staff writer Cameron Steele: 256-235-3562.