ELLSWORTH, Maine — Police are searching for thieves who apparently used an ax to cut copper ground wires from light poles in the northern part of the city.
According to Officer Daniel Owens of the Ellsworth Police Department, the wire was cut from 23 light poles along Gary Moore and Sunset Park roads sometime within the past 30 to 60 days.
The time frame is based on a report from Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. of when it last inspected the poles in that area, Owens said.
“Someone was out walking and called Bangor Hydro to report that they thought a wire was hanging,” he said. “When they inspected the area, they found wire missing from 23 poles. Someone had used an ax or a hatchet to cut the wire. You could see the indentation in the wood.”
The specialized copper wire is used primarily in commercial and industrial operations, Owens said.
“It’s quite valuable,” he said.
Bangor Hydro crews are still investigating the incident and trying to determine whether any other poles in the area were targeted, according to the company’s spokesperson Susan Faloon.
“We don’t have any dollar value on the damage at this point,” Faloon said Thursday.
The company has to deal with this type of crime regularly, including copper thefts at substations, she said. Cutting any wire can be dangerous, Faloon added. Although there have been no serious injuries in the Bangor Hydro service area recently, Faloon said that three years ago, a man was killed while trying to break into a substation in New Brunswick to steal copper wire.
Cutting the ground wire also can affect the reliability of service and potentially cause power outages and problems with individual appliances in customers’ homes.
“It can cause outages,” she said. “I’m not aware of any problems caused by this.”
These types of crimes also can affect customers in the pocketbook, according to Faloon.
“We’re still assessing the damages, but those wires will have to be replaced and those costs will have to be recovered,” she said. “That usually comes through rates.”
These types of crimes tend to increase when the prices of metal go up, and prices are high now, Owens said.
The Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office also is investigating the theft of copper ground wire cut earlier this month from about two dozen Central Maine Power Co. poles in Elliotsville.
The thefts were so bad a couple of years ago that the Maine Legislature passed a law requiring scrap metal dealers to keep a list of names of people who bring metal to their yards.
Owen said Thursday that because the wire from Ellsworth was taken so long ago, police don’t have a lot of information to go on. He added that he did have some investigative avenues to pursue, including checking with scrap metal dealers.
Owens said police are hoping the public might be able to help.
“It’s hard to imagine that someone was out there with an ax cutting wires and nobody saw them,” he said.
Anyone with information about the incident can contact Officer Owens at 667-2168.