Late night copper theft leaves Nogales neighborhood off the hook

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Late night copper theft leaves Nogales neighborhood off the hook

CREATED Apr 20, 2012

Reporter: Marcelino Benito

NOGALES, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - It's been a growing problem in Tucson. Thieves setting their eyes and hands on copper, but the latest theft is just a short drive away from the border. 

It was pitch black and a remote brush-filled area on the way into the border town of Nogales. Late on April 9th, copper thieves knew exactly what they were looking for. But this attack was different. Copper thieves have consistently targeted copper exposed above ground. This time they targeted what was underground.

"They broke the box," said Century Link spokesperson Guillermo Figueroa. "They got into the cable, and they cut it at ground level."

As soon as the cables were snipped, 10 to 20 Century Link customers counting on the telephone connection found themselves offline.

"That small amount of wire impacted our customers and their ability to communicate with loved ones," Figueroa said. "For a lot of people the phone is their lifeline."

Century Link crews worked fast to get customers back up online, but once thieves strike, the damage is already done. The copper wire itself isn't worth much to replace. It's the hours of labor that come at a cost to the company.

"It can run into the thousands," Figueroa said. "Technicians have to work overtime to get our customers back online. The cost for the company is huge."

Century Link tells 9OYS it's too early to know exactly what this latest theft will cost the company, but it could be as much as $6,000.

Nogales Police would not speak with 9OYS on camera Friday afternoon, but KGUN 9 has learned they consider this an isolated incident, nothing like the rash of copper thefts Tucson's experienced in the last few months. So far, NPD has no suspects in the case.

Still, Century Link urges anyone who sees suspicious behavior around these power lines or telephone poles to immediately call 911.