4 arrested after copper-wire thefts kept knocking out internet services

Police say the thefts of copper wire have cost businesses, homes and government departments more than $1.4 million. (CBC - image credit)
Police say the thefts of copper wire have cost businesses, homes and government departments more than $1.4 million. (CBC - image credit)

Four people have been arrested after a string of copper-wire thefts in Fredericton and Oromocto, RCMP said Monday.

Since September, the thefts in the Fredericton and Oromocto areas have amounted to more than $1.4 million in losses suffered by households, businesses and government departments, the RCMP said in a news release.

The repeated thefts have left residents without some TV, internet and phone services for varying periods of time. Bell Aliant said the system had suffered four significant outages since September and 40 instances of vandalism.

One of the more recent instances left 850 Oromocto and Lincoln residents without Bell services after copper wire was stolen on Nov. 29.

Police seize copper wire

RCMP said they arrested the first of four individuals, a 33-year-old man, on Nov. 23 during their investigation into copper-wire thefts, but he was taken into custody on "unrelated matters."

Police searched a residence in Geary that same day and seized "a significant quantity of copper wire and related materials."

On Nov. 29, police arrested two men and a woman, all in their 30s, at the scene after they were found loading copper wire into a vehicle, said the release.

The three were released from custody and will appear in Fredericton provincial court at a later date. The specific charges against them were not revealed.

The next day, police searched a Haneytown residence, where they seized "a significant quantity of copper wire, as well as other telecommunication lines," RCMP said.

Effect on community

The investigation into the thefts continues.

"These copper wire thefts have had significant impacts on our community, and our members have worked diligently to gather the evidence needed to make these arrests," said Cpl. Dan Sharpe of the West District RCMP.

"We would also like to encourage anyone who is purchasing salvaged parts or metals to ensure the product has been legally acquired."

New amendments were introduced in New Brunswick on Nov. 1 to the Salvage Dealers Licensing Act to make it harder to sell stolen catalytic converters and other commonly stolen goods such as plumber's lead, brass valves, copper, lead flashing and copper wire.

The RCMP release said people who see suspicious activity near power poles or electrical substations should contact local police.