Verizon is warning about an increasing number of criminal acts that have caused major telephone service outages, creating risks to public safety for more than 1,000 customers in the northern part of Buchanan County.
Over the past three weeks, thieves have been responsible for five incidents involving theft of copper telephone cables or vandalism to Verizon's telecommunications network, disrupting service in the Hurley, Kelsa, Guesses Fork, Pawpaw and Elk Creek areas.
"These thefts needlessly put people's lives in danger and cost thousands of dollars to repair," said Marlon Gunter, Verizon's area customer operations manager for southwest Virginia. "When phone lines are cut, citizens lose their ability to call 911 and other emergency services. This loss of emergency communications can also result in injury or worse due to delayed response."
The first incident occurred during the night of Feb. 8 when thieves stole 214 feet of Verizon aerial copper cable. Verizon crews worked through the following day to replace the stolen cable and splice the new cable.
Four other incidents of theft or vandalism have occurred over the past two weeks in the same area, affecting the same customers each time. The most recent incident occurred Monday night (Feb. 21) when the thieves cut an aerial copper cable in the same general area. Verizon employees discovered the cable lying across the Norfolk and Southern railroad tracks, and company technicians will install new cable today. Service should be restored later this evening.
Prior to these recent incidents, the last copper theft incident in the Hurley area was about two years ago. In October 2010, Verizon incurred nine incidents of copper theft in southwest Virginia, affecting customers in the Coeburn, Dante, St. Paul and Wise areas. The Dickenson County sheriff subsequently arrested three people on theft charges for those incidents.
"We are working closely with law enforcement officials to find and fully prosecute those responsible for the most recent criminal acts," said Gunter.
Verizon urges anyone with information about specific incidents to contact Verizon's Security Control Center at 1-800-997-3287. Those who witness any acts in progress should immediately call the Buchanan County Sheriff's Office at 276-935-2313.
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE, NASDAQ:VZ), headquartered in New York, is a global leader in delivering broadband and other wireless and wireline communications services to mass market, business, government and wholesale customers. Verizon Wireless operates America's most reliable wireless network, serving 94.1 million customers nationwide. Verizon also provides converged communications, information and entertainment services over America's most advanced fiber-optic network, and delivers innovative, seamless business solutions to customers around the world. A Dow 30 company, Verizon employs a diverse workforce of more than 194,000 and last year generated consolidated revenues of $106.6 billion. For more information, visit www.verizon.com.