Metal theft knocks out phones

Metal theft knocks out phones »Play Video

JUNCTION CITY, Ore. - A stolen copper phone line left 200 residences in Junction City and Cheshire without phone service on Tuesday.

Residents had to report emergencies by cell phone - or in person. 

CenturyLink (formerly Qwest) customers whose landline phones were out of service and who did not have cellular phone coverage were asked to report emergencies in person to the Lane Rural Fire District stations located at 91970 Territorial Highway and 22900 Highway 36 or to the main fire station in Junction City at 1755 Juniper Street.

Someone stole the wire at 5 a.m. Tuesday morning in south Junction City.

Service was restored by 7 p.m.

Authorities said the thieves cut down a pole and dragged 600 feet of copper cable down the road.

The theft cost CenturyLink thousands of dollars to repair.
About 200 residents lost phone service, revised down from early estimates of 900.

In Albany, Burcham's Metals employee Andrew Jones said depending on the wire density, 600 feet of copper could have a market value of about $1,400. Jones said copper is a hot item for thieves because it could mean fast money.

"When the price is high it is good incentive for a person to try to get something for nothing," said Jones.

Jones said Burcham's Metals works with the Linn County Sheriff's Office and the Albany Police Department to track metal theft. On Tuesday Jones said his yard received two theft reports and that the number of reports has risen in recent years. He said high unemployment and drug use have driven people to cash in on copper and other metals to the tune of about $3 per pound.

Jones said the state is cracking down on metal theft.

In 2010, the legislature passed Senate Bill 570 which required scrap metal yards to hold payment on metals for up to three days, copy the seller's photo identification, and photograph all materials for record keeping.

"With all that we can compile quite a bit of evidence in case something is stolen," said Jones.

But Jones said that the law can't stop every thief. He said not all scrap yards are diligent with paperwork and that the law can drive some thieves to take stolen metals across state lines, making metal theft a nationwide problem.