AT&T offers reward to combat copper thefts at cell sites

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- AT&T officials hope cold hard cash will help catch a group of copper thieves that are putting people's lives at risk.
The thieves have targeted 20 AT&T cell sites in the Phoenix metro area and every time they strike, they knock out phone service to the area until it gets repaired.

"Not only does it cost us a lot of money, and it does, but we want to combat this because of what it means to the customer that we service," said Jerry Fuentes with AT&T.

Fuentes said the thefts not only lead to a loss of service but also put lives at risk because cellphones are used for much more than just your everyday phone call. Tampering with cell sites can disrupt wireless service that people depend on to request emergency assistance.

"These individuals that are going out doing this, it's just wreaking havoc in our communities," said Tempe police Chief Tom Ryff.

He said the thieves get between $10 and $20 for what they steal, but it costs tens of thousands of dollars to repair the damage.

Cell site attacks have occurred in Phoenix, Tempe, Chandler, Mesa, Glendale and Eloy.

AT&T it is offering a reward of $5,000 for information that will help track down the culprits. To report copper thefts call 1-800-807-4205.