Wire theft causing significant disruptions for Richmond residents

Wire theft causing significant disruptions for Richmond residents
Richmond Police reportedly caught a suspected copper thief on Castro Ranch Road with $20,000 worth of wire in the trunk of his car. Photos/ Richmond Police Department.

Theft of copper AT&T wires in Richmond has become such a serious problem that residents cannot work from home and use cell phones or computers because of it, according to the Richmond Police Department.

According to Assistant Chief of Police Tim Simmons, businesses and residents alike have suffered tremendously from wire theft in Richmond,

“Residents have lost the ability to work from home, utilize their cell phones, and use their computers,” Simmons said. “In addition to this, the cost to repair the damage done is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.”

Simmons said the cost of wire theft is passed on to Richmond residents through rate increases.

Richmond police have made several arrests of suspected wire thieves. Officers recently responded to a report of wire theft in the city. Upon arrival, the officer saw a suspect standing underneath an AT&T service pole.

“The suspect immediately looked away from the officer and fled on foot,” according to a statement by the Richmond Police Department. “The suspect was quickly taken into custody after a short foot pursuit and taser deployment by the officer. An in-field lineup was conducted, and the suspect was positively identified.”

“Officers also located a large ladder and bolt cutters near the service pole. The copper wire had been freshly cut and hanging. A records check on the suspect revealed multiple felony warrants for his arrest,” police said. 

Several residents reported issues online after thefts in their neighborhoods.

Marshkat Marshall has been without a landline for over a month because of wire theft. The thefts also make it difficult for people who do not have access to the internet. 

"They don’t have cell phones. They depend on their landline, and people like this are putting them at risk," Marshall wrote.

Susan McCloskey said the thefts are a serious problem affecting not only people who depend on landlines but also people who work remotely.

"AT&T lines have been cut three times on my street in El Sobrante," McCloskey said.

Richmond Police Chief Bisa French said the AT&T wire theft greatly impacts people’s abilities to work from home, get the internet, and do the things they need electronically at home.

“This has been a huge issue not only in our city but across the nation,” French said during a crime prevention meeting last week.

French said police also caught a suspected copper thief on Castro Ranch Road with $20,000 worth of wire in the trunk of his car.

“He was arrested, but for every person we arrest, there are 100 more behind them because stealing this wire is so lucrative,” French said.  

Police hope to install more license plate reader cameras to address the wire theft, but not all wire thieves arrive by car. 

“There is another issue off of Canal where the same area keeps getting hit. The challenge for us is that a lot of times, some of these people are coming on bikes, believe it or not. So they are not utilizing a vehicle,” French said.

There also isn’t a set time of day when the thefts are happening. Thieves target the wires in the daytime and the middle of the night. 

“We want to catch the people that are doing this, but ultimately, we want to catch the people that they are selling the wire to because we could impact that, then we could have an impact on the actual thefts,” French said.

Police are encouraging the public to contact police dispatch at 510-233-1214 to report suspicious people loitering near utility poles.

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