AT&T raises reward to catch copper wire thieves

EASTON, Calif.

AT&T's new plan is all about money -- a $10,000 reward -- double what they were initially offering. They are desperate to catch the people who are doing this.

Crews were working on one the latest theft at Lincoln and Blythe on Wednesday. The thieves had cut the guard wire, hoping a domino effect would knock down the poles. Their plan didn't work, but they still got away with plenty of wires.

"Its monotonous and these are small cables," said Cory Dodd with AT&T

Dodd is a maintenance splicer. He's the guy who cleans up the mess that copper thieves leave behind. They have to replace the wire, splice it together, and cover it with a plastic case Sometimes it takes a few days, and people like Kathi Woodward have no choice but to wait it out.

"It's very annoying -- it's very inconvenient. My kids know to call home if there's a problem at school, and they can't get through," said Woodward who has lost phone service.

Woodward says its happened a handful of times within the last few months, and every time they have to stop depending on the fax machine to help out the family business. Woodward is one of a few hundred affected this time, but the Sheriff says it's a state wide problem that has hit Fresno County particularly hard..

"So far this year in Fresno County our metal theft loss has exceeded half a million dollars," said Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims.

She called it a "disturbing" trend and one that impacts more than just a blacked out television. It could prevent people from calling 911.

"Should somebody lose their life or be significantly impacted as a result of them not being able to call out on any kind of communication device, it could be prosecuted federally," said Mims.

The crime spikes when the price of copper does. Right now its about copper is about $3.50 a pound. The Sheriff's department is working with scrap yards. They've even have a task force -- but even she admits the crooks are pretty creative.

That is nothing new for people in Easton who are once again waiting on a dial tone.

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