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Copper thieves bringing down communication lines

By Jim Conrad, jconrad@wcyb.com
Published On: Dec 20 2013 04:50:23 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 19 2013 08:00:00 PM CST

Imagine in this high-tech age of not having any communications with the outside world -- that's what one area of Wise County has experienced as the result of thieves stealing phone lines.

WISE COUNTY, Va. -

Imagine in this high-tech age of not having any communications with the outside world -- that's what one area of Wise County, Virginia has experienced as the result of thieves stealing phone lines.

Cell service in the South Fork section of Pound, Virginia is very poor, so the community relies on landlines. As we recently discovered, it puts the area at risk because they have no other way of calling for help.

The only consistent communications line both in and out of the South Fork area of Wise County near Pound is the phone lines, but lately there have been lots of major outages -- and it has nothing to do with weather according to Wise County Sheriff's Office investigator Ed Jessee. "In the last three weeks we've had three thefts in the same general area in the Pound area," he said.

The thieves have taken hundreds of feet of phone lines. Inside those lines are hundreds of thin cooper wires that can possibly be sold for scrap metal. "The cost of the replacement value is much more than the value they'll be getting for the scrap metal," Jessee said.

But without those lines, the community has no way of calling for help in case of an emergency.

Jessica Swinney is the Wise County EMS director. "When you don't have access to 911, you don't have access to get fire, police or emergency medical services," she explained. "That does put you at a risk for slowing emergency response."

"Those areas that you don't have very good cell signal in, people will not have communication at all as far as phone lines," Jessee said.

Those responsible are facing felony charges for the thefts, as well as hampering emergency services.

The Wise County Sheriff's Office is asking anyone with information about this case to contact their office at (276) 328-9647, or click here to go to their Facebook page.