About 5km of power cables was stolen in Leeds last year – making the city one of the worst places in the north for such thefts.
There were 57 attacks on overhead lines and electricity sub-stations in the city – nearly one in 10 of the incidents recorded by power distributor Northern Powergrid, which covers the whole of Yorkshire and the North East.
Nearly 5,000 Leeds homes had their power supply interrupted as a result.
Nigel Walker, who handles metal theft problems for Northern Powergrid, said there was evidence thefts were being co-ordinated by organised gangs – and Leeds was in an extremely vulnerable position because of its location.
He said: “Leeds is a hotspot area. It has a very good motorway network, it’s a central point for criminals to pass through and pinch cable then transport it outside of the region.”
Despite the high number of incidents in Leeds, there were only five arrests relating to cable thefts last year.
Mr Walker said the company had actually seen a reduction in overall crime numbers but metal was being stolen in larger quantities by organised groups.
“A greater amount of metal is being stolen and more customers are being affected,” he said. “I think the attitude of thieves is if they are going to risk their lives, they might as well make it worth it.
“There is evidence it is being put into metal containers and shipped out through the ports, rather than being sold through scrap yards as it has been in the past.”
As well as the danger of electrocution faced by thieves who attack power lines, thefts can cause a fire risk to householders whose power supplies fluctuate.
In 2011 a copper cable theft caused an explosion which wrecked a row of houses in Castleford.