ELLSWORTH, Maine — Copper thieves have struck again, targeting Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. utility poles in Ellsworth and Surry.
According to Deputy Robert Morang of the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department, the thieves took cooper ground wire from about 30 utility poles along the North Bend Road between Route 1 in Ellsworth and Route 172 in Surry.
“They covered almost the whole length of the North Bend Road and they also hit side roads off there,” Morang said Thursday.
Based on information from Bangor Hydro crews, Morang said it appears the copper wire was taken within the last week or so.
This is the second time in a week that police have opened investigations into copper wire thefts from Bangor Hydro poles. Ellsworth police still are investigating the theft of ground wires from about 23 poles on Gary Moore Road and Sunset Park Road in Ellsworth. Although that investigation began last week, it appeared that the copper wire could have been taken months ago.
Bangor Hydro spokesperson Susan Faloon said Thursday that crews also have reported missing wires from poles in the town of Hancock.
Morang said he has discussed the case with Ellsworth officers, but that at this point, he could not tell if the two incidents are related.
Earlier reports indicated that the Gary Moore Road thefts were done by cutting the ground wire with an ax or a hatchet. Morang said there was no evidence in the most recent case to indicate what had been used to cut the wires.
This is not just a local problem. Last month, the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office also investigated the theft of copper ground wire cut from about two dozen Central Maine Power Co. poles in Elliotsville.
In all the Bangor Hydro cases, Faloon said, the thieves are taking very small amounts of the copper wire.
“They’re only taking about 4-foot lengths of wire,” she said. “It’s not a large dollar amount they’re taking. It seems that they take just as far as they can reach.”
Faloon said the value of the wire taken in the Gary Moore Road thefts was about $40. She did not have an estimate on the amounts taken in the other incidents.
Even though the amounts taken are small, the cost to the utility is high, Faloon said.
“We have to replace more than the 4 feet; we have to replace the whole line,” she said. “With materials and labor, that adds up to a lot more than what they’ve taken.”
The damaged wires don’t pose any danger to anyone nearby, but they could be dangerous to those cutting the wire, Faloon said. The damaged ground wires also could cause service problems and result in outages, although Faloon said there have not been reports of service problems in the areas hit by the thieves.
“Our biggest concern, more than the cost of the wire, is that somebody could get hurt,” she said. “We’re very much concerned about that.”
Although Bangor Hydro crews patrol the service area regularly, Faloon said it is difficult to cover all of the more than 5,000 miles of line.
“It takes a lot of time,” she said.
The company also relies on the public and she urged anyone with information about the theft of the wire to contact the local police department.