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Public safety put at risk by metal thieves

Wire theft is putting Fraser Valley residents' safety at risk, especially those living with little or no cellphone service in remote areas of the region.

Telephone land lines have been cut by copper wire thieves leaving "thousands" without service, and even electric highway safety signs have been put out of commission, leaving drivers at risk, police said.

Some residents in the Yale and Boston Bar area were stranded "for weeks" without telephone service after an ice storm and a landslide delayed repairs to damaged land lines.

"We have no cellphone service, which makes it really troublesome when land lines aren't repaired," Lloyd Foreman, Boston Bar area director at the Fraser Valley Regional District, said after last month's board meeting.

Foreman and Yale area director Dennis Adamson called on the FVRD board to send a "strongly-worded" letter to Telus about the service delay.

But Telus spokesman Shawn Hall said repair crews couldn't reach land lines damaged by the ice storm because the landslide closed access roads, and then the metal thieves hit, taking copper wiring the company had paid "hundreds of thousands of dollars" to bury underground.

And last Monday, metal thieves hit Telus again, breaking into an armored conduit under the Hope Bridge, shutting down about 250 voice and Internet customers, as well as a cellphone tower, he said.

All for about 10 feet of copper wire, worth about five bucks to scrap metal dealers.

Hall said Telus is "happy to talk with the regional district" about solving the problem, and is actively working with the RCMP to put metal thieves out of business.

"They're putting our customers at risk, leaving them without 911 service," he said.

The RCMP is asking the public to report any suspicious activity around power poles and other locations with copper wiring.

Most of the thefts have taken place in the daytime, in heavily-populated areas, so police believe there must be witnesses.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Hope RCMP at 604-869-7750 or the Chilliwack RCMP at 604-792-4611.

Tips can also be called in to Crime Stoppers at 1-888-222-TIPS or made online at www.chilliwackcrimestoppers.ca.

rfreeman@theprogress.com

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