Phone company, police ask for help in copper thefts

Phone lines in rural areas are being targeted. And so much copper phone wire has been cut, that AT&T is sending out a public appeal for it to stop. "This is a very expensive situation," said Harrell.

Police say what's troubling is that the thieves are very good at what they do. Harrell says they are very efficient, and very fast. Many times by the times the cops get there, the thieves are long gone.

Sheriff Harrell says usually they are notified immediately once lines are cut. "We've been there within minutes and when we arrive, all we see are sheaves on the ground," he said.

Many of the thefts occur late at night or early in the morning. "And a lot of times it's not noticed until next morning when (residents) go to use the phone or Internet," he said.

Thieves melt the copper wire and take it to scrap yards where many times it's impossible for the buyers to tell where it came from. Police do say tougher state laws to track copper purchases..would help put a stop to the mischief.

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