Thieves in Fredericton are stealing copper right from the power poles 'almost daily'
Bell Aliant says thieves have knocked out services more than 50 times since October
The city of Fredericton is under siege by copper thieves — and it's leaving hundreds of people without their internet on an almost daily basis.
According to Bell Aliant, thieves have cut and stolen their lines directly from power poles in the dead of night more than 50 times since October.
"It's brazen," said Dana Lohnes, Bell Aliant's director of field operations for Atlantic Canada. "A lot of the sites that they are vandalizing are in very, very public areas, like right on the side of main roads."
Lohnes said his company has video footage of thieves using metal grinders they've attached to telescopic poles in order to cut lines from the ground without ever having to climb a pole. Once the lines are cut, he said thieves quickly separate the copper ones from the others and leave.
Some thieves have stolen more than 200 metres of copper lines at once.
He said since Oct. 8, these thefts have all happened between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m. almost every night. Lohnes said he's responsible for the network in all of Atlantic Canada, but these thefts on this scale are only happening in the Fredericton area.
On Wednesday night, he said thieves cut lines in Hanwell and in Lincoln. On Monday night, they stole wire from Fredericton's north side on the corner of Sunset Drive and Route 105. Police say that single outage saw thieves slash wires in several spots that affected internet, TV, and phone lines for more than 800 customers.
"It was noted that wires had been cut from multiple poles in the area which affected Fibre Op customers internet and phone line services in the area as well as services in the Douglas, Currie Mountain and Carlisle Rd. Area," wrote Fredericton police spokesperson Sonya Gilks in an email.
The fibre-optic cable that carries Bell Aliant's internet and TV services is the collateral damage in these thefts. The high-speed internet cables are intertwined with Bell's "legacy" network — copper cables that are mostly responsible for carrying landline services.
When thieves cut one wire, though, they cut them all, but they only leave with the copper lines. Bell Aliant said they're trying to replace those stolen copper cables with smaller cables that have less copper and aren't as valuable.
"You might think that they would try to be a little more discreet, but it's been pretty brazen," said Lohnes.
He stopped short of calling it organized. He said that's a classification he'll leave to the police. But he did say Bell Aliant has started hiring their own security companies "to literally patrol the streets of these impacted areas nightly."
Each night, immediately after an outage is detected, Lohnes said Bell Aliant is dispatching their security teams and calling police.
"We've rolled up on them a couple of times, which has sent them scurrying into the woods, that type of thing," said Lohnes.
He said in the last few weeks, five arrests have been made, but he said it hasn't decreased the number of times thieves have struck.
"Which is surprising," said Lohnes. "You would think people might start to lay low after arrests, but unfortunately that's not been the case."